The first good thing about going public with my story of inadvertent addiction to prescribed drugs in Accidental Addict was reconnecting with my childhood friend, Kathy Hendrix Burke. She’d moved to California after high school and we had all but lost touch until she read my website and contacted me.
We began a feverish catch-up correspondence, and it took no time at all to be reminded of why we’d hit it off so well in seventh grade. We still love all the same things! She sent a picture of herself dressed for a wedding, and her embroidered shawl was just like what I’d worn at my son’s wedding. Turns out we both both like the Johnny Was line of boho tunics and sweaters. She’s also into real estate and remodeling houses, favoring, as I do, craftsman style. We each consider choosing colors to be our strong point.
When she started writing about the dolls she’d outfitted with trunks of handsewn clothes and donated to charity, my husband was suspicious. “Are you sure this person isn’t stalking you? Have you written blog posts about all your doll projects?” No, I hadn’t. I agreed it was uncanny, but assured Herb my long-lost friend was for real.
Kathy and I agreed our fixation about dolls with trunks of clothes must have come from our mutual favorite childhood novel, A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, in which Sara Crewe’s wealthy father, returning to India, parks her in a stuffy school for girls with a doll and extravagant wardrobe as solace. I remember discussing with Kathy in high school how much fun it would be if our school would put on the theatrical version. Kathy generously allowed me the part of Sara in this fantasy since she wanted to be Sara’s loyal friend in poverty, the little cockney scullery maid, Becky. Of course neither of us dreamed I’d wind up with the last name Crew, and I must say here that I have always wished my husband’s family had that “e” on the end!
I wrote Kathy, though, that I had a vague memory of another book, a mystery, about a missing antique doll and trunk that had stayed lodged in my brain. I could still remember the descriptions of all the lovely miniature accessories which were reportedly in this trunk which the little girl longed to find somewhere on the family farm.
Kathy shot right back with an Esty listing. “Could this be it?” It was! The Wonderful Fashion Doll by Laura Bannon. Kathy remembered it too, as did a number of grown women posting wistfully on Amazon of the wish that this book be reprinted.
Well, nothing would do but for me to grab that rare copy so Kathy and I could share it and rediscover what had so captivated us when we were little. It was all there, the doll and trunk as I remembered it, but more, I was struck with the love of history and antiques the book conveyed. I would have first read it sitting in my parents brand new subdivision house with its boring sheetrock walls, and the scenes of pulling off seven layers of wallpaper to reveal stenciled walls beneath must have stuck with me since that’s what interests me now.
Of course, in the book, after chapters of suspense, false leads and disappointments, the little girl, Debby, ultimately finds the doll. Reporting on this book to my mother when I read it around the age of ten, she told me that her mother had been given a beautiful doll she named Lovey Mary (after a character in yet another book) and that the wardrobe sewn for the doll had won a prize in a contest and been displayed in a window in Meier & Frank in Portland where my grandmother grew up.
So where was Lovey Mary? Where were those beautiful clothes? Who knows? Not in my grandmother’s attic.
Thus one of my earliest lessons in an annoying truth: real life doesn't always live up to the books! My mother’s family weren’t savers, and she herself didn’t save one doll from her childhood. Probably why I’ve gone so far overboard in the other direction.
A few years ago, I tried to fix the longing to find Lovey Mary by researching what manufacture of doll she’d probably been and having as close a match as possible sent from a shop in New York City. I enjoyed the project, making several elegant dresses, for which my new Lovey Mary would of course need a trunk!
I hope I’ll find new excuses for more projects like this. Inside, you see, I’m still ten, with the thrilling hope of finding that long-lost doll lodged forever in my little girl heart.