When I was a young child my sister and I would make our Christmas lists on Thanksgiving. It was a family tradition, the lists went home with our Grandparents to be mailed to Santa Claus. We put a lot of thought into those lists. A lot. We were told to make them long to give Santa options. Remember, there was no internet then, this was a carefully crafted, well thought out and researched list. Our research consisted of sale flyers, toy catalogs, and friends’ homes – what did we play with there?
Surprisingly, my sister and I were also pretty vague, at least by today’s standards. I don’t think either of us ever put anything Barbie on it, and the “it toy” was a new concept when we kids. By the time the Tickle Me Elmo craze happened, we were in high school, and old enough to laugh at it. Our lists had thing like “bike”, “record player”, or “lace up boots” (I was a strange kid, I wanted boots – like the ones Laura Ingall Wilder would have worn)
Even though we were told to be specific, except for book titles, games, and color preferences, I don’t remember often including a brand or specific toy, except the year my sister wanted Monchichi. Most of the years I can remember, my list started out the same way, doll house, doll for my collection (this was an obligatory request by the time I started to be able to spell “collection”, since my grandmother had started a doll collection for me), books, and a Raggedy Andy doll* to keep my Raggedy Ann company.
I don’t know what it was about Raggedy Ann and Andy that held my interest. I still have one of the books in my collection, so at some point, I know I read the stories, maybe we borrowed some of the books from the library, or had a record/book set, it’s possible I saw the movie or TV show too. I really don’t remember; but I do remember wanting both the dolls, and now that I look back on it, it’s a good thing I didn’t want the camel, the dog, or any of their other unusual friends… Santa would still be looking for those.
At some point, as a very young girl, I did get a Raggedy Ann doll, and she was splendid. I don’t remember if she was a gift that then triggered my reading the books and watching the movie, or if it was the other way around. Regardless, she was, from then on, a favorite of mine. She was big, for starters, at least 24″. She had a red heart on her chest with the words “I love you” in it, a painted face with button eyes, red yarn hair tied up in a weird sort of bun in the back and she wore knickers, a flowery dress, and an apron.
I used her as a pillow, she was one of the few things that was always on, and in, my bed. I was not the type of kid that usually slept with dolls or stuffed animals, after all, they had their own bed! I had a few that occasionally made the cut, and at one point, my grandmother was given garbage bags full of stuffed animals by a friend of hers, so my sister and I were overwhelmed with stuffed whales, giraffes, tigers, owls, and more. But unless I was scared or sick, I usually didn’t cuddle with stuffed critters or dolls. However, Raggedy Ann was always at the foot of my bed or leaning against the headboard next to me.
I did have an overactive imagination (still do, if you hadn’t figured that out) and the dark of night was a great time for my imagination to come up with some crazy ideas and leave me sleepless. Maybe, after reading the stories of Raggedy Ann’s bravery, I thought she’d protect me from the monsters under my bed – they were big, had tentacles, and were friends with the humidifier dragon on the dresser.
At some point her seam split on the one side. I remember my mom fixing her, Raggedy Ann had “surgery”. I don’t even remember what ailment we made up, but it wasn’t a life threatening thing. After stitching her back up, mom put a fabric band-aid over the stitches – we had to use a fabric one, because the plastic ones wouldn’t stick to cloth! Close to 40 years later, that bandage is still on her side.
When I was a teenager, Robby, our labrador puppy had a full on labrador frenzy in my bedroom. Raggedy Ann became truly raggedy. She lost an arm, part of her face and most of her stuffing. By this point, I didn’t think I needed her protection from the monsters under the bed, but she was still manning her post on my bed every night. So I re stuffed and stitched her back up the best I could. Of all the shoes, bags, telephones and microwaves (yes, telephones and microwaves) that dog ate, I think the attack on my toys, and Raggedy Ann in particular, is what made me question why people love Labradors so much. But that’s another post.
Despite her pitiful condition, I kept Raggedy Ann; and I still have her, as you can see by the photo above, in all of her well worn, worse for the years, faded gloriousness. In addition to the missing arm, and ripped face, the elastic in her britches and cuffs gave out years ago, the ribbon on her apron is fraying, and her hair has matted. Through college (she didn’t go with me), my first apartments, and even after getting married, I kept her. She now sits in the corner, at the base of the stairs, still protecting us from the things that go bump in the night.
Recently, when I walk past her, I started wondering why I still have her and I think about getting rid of her. I mean, she’s not worth anything to anyone in her current condition. I know there are doll hospitals out there, and I could even try to find a match and frankenstein together one complete doll. But I keep wondering if this is worth it to me. Really, at this point, all she’s holding in her single hand and printed little heart are my memories. Do I need her just for that? Is there a monetary value in that? No, not really.
We all manage to get attached to objects. Some of them are small physical reminders -trinkets, jewelry, ticket stubs, things we can stash away in a cigar box somewhere. Others are larger, but still “stashable” or hangable – bottles, framed photos, posters, things we can place on window sills, book shelves, or hang on the wall. These are often the items in our homes that give our space that feeling of calm, a sense of belonging, and adds that extra bit of something that makes it uniquely ours.
But what do we do with our larger items? Those things, like Raggedy Ann, that take up more space than a frame and are no longer of any real use to us? How long do we hold onto them? Why do we hold onto them? Sentimental value is a very real thing, but it’s physically incalculable and nontransferable. It’s like a coupon – no real value unless used, but it’s use is very specific.
I’m trying to purge useless things from our home in an effort to declutter, prioritize, and organize. But things like Raggedy Ann trip me up in my efforts. I don’t want to just box her up and put her in the attic, that will just delay the decision. I wonder about reusing parts, but how? I can’t donate her, she’s in too bad of shape – maybe if she were only missing an arm, I’d consider looking into donating her to a children’s hospital, as I’m sure that one armed little girls like dolls too, and some of them might have monsters under their beds.
When it comes down to it, she’ll most likely remain at her post for a little while longer as I try to decide if it’s worth finding the parts, patterns, and time to repair her. Maybe as I find more photos of our adventures together I’ll be able to let her go. So I shouldn’t be surprised if one day, I decide she’s just not needed anymore. After all, it’s the memories she’s left me with that are more important, right? Isn’t that true of all our stuff?
*I did eventually get Raggedy Andy, when I was in my late teens and their popularity swung back around. New, smaller, and from a different company, next to my well loved, but still two armed, Raggedy Ann, he looked like an imposter. I never took him out of his box to sit on the bed next to Ann. He remains in his box in a trunk in the attic.