A nearly incredible number of decades ago, Sarah lay in her Ideal box under our Christmas tree, her blonde saran glued-on wig of hair framing her face, her hazel eyes closed, her red mouth enigmatically neutral. Her party dress had a pink bodice trimmed with white lace and a green skirt with a gold pattern. She was a Toni doll, but I named her Sarah, after the girl in a story Mrs. Mary Lou Thomas was reading to my nursery school class. I was three, and this was my third Christmas.
My first words, on tearing open the box and beholding my new doll were, “This isn’t the doll I wanted!” Sarah, as I mentioned, was blonde. The doll I wanted had brown hair, like mine.
I was already programmed to discern my parents’ feelings, and their shocked disappointment was palpable. I knew I needed to fix this.
“I love this doll and she’s just the doll I always wanted!” My declaration was one part truth and two parts aspiration. I wanted to love this doll, I really did, because world–at least my world–peace and harmony depended on it. It is no mercy that I remember this so clearly.
My mother, a genius seamstress, made dozens of smart outfits for Sarah, none of which survived the five climate zones and thirty-some homes Sarah has shared with me. I eventually fashioned a Tarzan’s Jane sort of tunic for her to keep her decent, and just let her be a hippie. Then, about ten years ago, I searched eBay for 14″ Toni doll clothes, and connected with a wonderful woman who made Sarah a beautiful red-and-white dress. I purchased socks and panties for her from another sentimental vintage seamstress; and from a vintage doll vendor, I found shoes just like her original ones.
Sarah sat on shelves and dressers for dozens of un-played-with years. When my granddaughter was born, I knew the time was approaching for Sarah to return to active duty. My granddaughter is three; this Christmas will be her third Christmas.
I hugged and kissed Sarah goodbye before I packed her safely for her first U.S. mail journey, to a new girl, and yet another home, in yet another climate zone: Alaska’s boreal sub-arctic.
My granddaughter has brown hair. I hope she will love Sarah, and that Sarah will be the doll she always wanted; and that Sarah will be played with, and served pretend tea in nice cups, for many more decades to come.