Loose Ends: Oh, the stories they tell

The local historical society’s fundraiser may have shed a little light on family mysteries for local residents. It did for me. My familiarity with the old doll could not be questioned, but my knowledge of where it originated was spotty. My mother’s and grandmother’s stories about the doll did not mesh.
I had been introduced to my great-grandmother’s doll more than 50 years earlier. My mother had moved my four siblings and me about an hour away from the city into the third floor of my grandparent’s house in a neighboring small town. As a chatty 5-year-old, I was interested in finding out more about my surroundings.
Everything was new and unfamiliar to me, so Grandmother took me on a little tour around the rest of the house. Taking me down to her bedroom to listen to the sound of the ocean coming from the big conch shell on her dresser, she reached one arm around me to help me hold it close to my ear. I heard a faraway rumble and shivered. Glancing up to see if the window was open, I felt as if someone was staring at me. I looked over to her bed to find a prim, proper, old-fashioned doll propped up against the pillow.
She wore a faded yellow calico dress with muslin and lace bloomers peeking out beneath the hem of her long skirt. Her cloth arms and legs stuck straight out, as if she was asking for someone’s help in getting up. Her painted glass eyes reflected the afternoon light coming in through the window. Her papier-mache head faced forward, but I was sure her glass eyes moved to look at me briefly. I knew that if I stared long enough, she would cast her eyes downward and move her long fingers to straighten the folds of her dress. She had me spooked.
“Do you hear it, dearie?”
“No grandma, but I hear someone calling us from downstairs, so we better hurry.”
It wasn’t until I was grown and living a thousand miles away that the doll and I met again. My mother’s move from her apartment to a nursing home prompted her to ask if I would take the doll home with me to Colorado. Put away for safekeeping for the past 20 years, I thought about the stories I had been told about the doll. Was she truly a comfort to my great-grandmother who lost her missionary parents at an early age? Did she see the world and travel on the seas before coming home to be the companion to a lonely orphan?
Taking the doll to the recent Rio Blanco County Historical Society’s Pioneer Treasures Appraisal and Sale last Saturday, I found out a little more from doll expert, Floyd Jones. He was able to pinpoint the time period and the company that manufactured her. Discovering more about her origins gives me new insight into my family and makes sense of quite a few of the stories that were told. Although she has little monetary value, her presence throughout the generations has been cherished.

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