I say “no” to my only child. It’s hard sometimes but I do it. When Elisabeth asks about a doll though my answer, albeit not right away, always turns into a reluctant “yes”.
Toy store dolls, immaculate and untouched in sharp plastic boxes, are not the “yes” dolls. Elisabeth finds her dolls eking out an existence alone in one of two huge wooden bins at the TROSA store before they come home to us. They are thrown in casually with stuffed lions, Sponge Bobs, elephants, cheap plush sharks, Tony the Tiger and other predators. Legs are bent at awkward angles but frozen smiles and wide eyes are resolutely in place. They are seldom clothed which, for me, adds to their desperation. Always naked, little girl dolls. These dolls are one of the cheapest things at TROSA: 50 or 69 cents. The price is one of the worst things but also one of the best: their low cost makes them easier to save.
And they are being saved. By us. As Elisabeth’s doll collection increases, my hesitation grows but ultimately my “yes” comes down to the same thing: How can I say no to a naked, little girl baby in an unsafe place? These dolls, naked and alone, seem like all the girls in the world who are abused and abandoned.
We don’t have space for endless dolls and sometimes I wonder if we’re in too deep already: will they get enough love? In our home, though, Elisabeth makes sure there is enough. She spends time with her rescues, murmuring soothingly. She offers bottles, blankies, beds and milkie even, from her own tiny nipple. I draw a hard line, though, at these babies staying in the car by themselves or remaining behind alone on the front porch. From time to time, I’ve even curbed Elisabeth’s yelling by simply telling her it scares the babies. The dolls are happy though to remain in her single parent, imperfect family. I think they accept Elisabeth’s mistakes and see that she tries hard and wants to do what’s right. Best of all: she’s actually present in this home. They can count on that.
A woman was a child was a baby once. All the lost girls in the world had to have been loved then, even if briefly? But if that is true, it almost doesn’t matter if they all seem to land anyway in the hard purgatory of TROSA. Let me say “yes” then to this small kind of heaven, our home, and help them heal from the wrongs suffered from this hell of a world which doesn’t do well by our girls and even worse caring for the broken women those lost girls become.
Last week, Elisabeth found a new doll with a clunky, hard battery pack. “No,” I said quickly. “She’s scary.” “Why?” Elisabeth asked. I was thinking of Talky Tina but that was too much to explain. I did say that batteries could make the doll talk and that was a little creepy. As we headed out, Elisabeth said she didn’t want that doll. “Why?” I asked. “Because she’s scary,” Elisabeth said. My influence crops up at unexpected times and in this moment, her response felt like more than I could take. I explained Mimi had allowed me to see a movie when I was small which had a talking doll that had scared me. (Forgive me, Mom, I know that’s not exactly what happened). But this doll didn’t even look like that doll, I argued in favor of another baby that I hadn’t really wanted in the first place. Elisabeth seemed satisfied and handed over her 53 cents. We went home to wash up this new baby, find her clothes and come up with a name.
It’s hard to love the inner voice that compels me to do work which offers a reluctant “yes” to these dolls. But they are not hard to love. I swallow and say, “yes, come,” a little more firmly this time.