There’s one more character, waiting in the wings.
Lily is the only doll I had custom made. My other dolls are all variations of Andrea’s (from Wildwood dolls) available characters. But, when I went looking for an older, female doll, I couldn’t find any. So I asked Andrea to make one, based on my favorite older female character – Miss Jane Marple. Specifically, the Miss Jane Marple played by Joan Hickson.
If ever my dead body is found in mysterious circumstances, I can only hope that Jane/Joan, with her mixture of sweet old lady and all-knowing understanding of the foibles of the human character, will find the culprit.
Here’s the doll Andrea created (now named Lily), waiting, with her dog, for her first episode.
Lily is also the name of my Dad’s mom, who bears a passing resemblance to the doll (although not to Joan Hickson). Here’s Mom (as we called her) with some of my Aunt Posie’s kids.
Mom died when I was young, and all that stuck with me about her was that she was very devout, that she managed to stuff an awful lot of hair into that tiny bun, and that she taught me to whistle one night when she was staying at our house. She didn’t talk a lot and she seemed rather stern.
A few years ago, I uncovered a batch of letters between her and my Dad after he moved away from home. The woman in those letters is entirely unknown to me – funny, wise, and able to rise through whatever was thrown at her – mainly way too many children, and way too little money.
Here she is describing how her boys got their sick Dad to her mother’s house (next door) where a car could reach him:
“I didn’t figure Daddy should walk to Grandma’s, even if he could. I asked Sam if he could think of any way they could transport him. He took the big chair apart, used the comfy upper part of it, and fastened it securely to a couple iron side rails from a bed, and presto! there was a comfortable riding chair. Sam and George furnished the horsepower; at any rate, they carried him safely to Grandma’s; except the bridge(?) – he felt safer walking the log.”
Here, she talks about meeting one of her son’s future wife for the first time, and what must have been a very difficult experience in feeling her son’s shame for her living conditions. Still, she finds the funny parts.
“When we got word they were coming, we decided to postpone our Thanksgiving until Friday evening (Roosevelt gets away with it; so did we.) Everybody scrubbed and cleaned and hid things until no one could find anything they needed. Then we knew it was time to stop and call it a day. I guess he had painted us pretty black, and then found he didn’t have to apologize for us after all. We spent a jolly evening together. Poppy pinched her arm, explaining that he wanted to make sure she was real, and not something out of a store window.”
Here, she offers my Dad love advice shortly after he writes about meeting my Mom. She’s trying very hard to paint a rosy picture about marriage, but somehow ends up writing something else altogether.
“Here’s two seasonal extremes that are running through my mind: “In the Spring, a young man’s fancy, lightly turns to thoughts of love” – “Love loveth best of all the year October’s bright blue weather.” I have found that it holds in spite of all things; I may become angry (not often) at my life partner, but I’ve never ceased loving him- and that love is stronger today than during our courtship. It’s been refined by thousands of days of faithful service. We’ll be married twenty-five years September 4. Daddy is an ideal lover, and probably will make a wonderful grandfather; he has a mean streak in his makeup, and a sharp critical tongue that tends to constant friction in the home, and with the neighbors, too. I lived with him for three years before I ever heard him swear, or speak harshly to me. Then it was about you and Tom; it’s amusing to me (when I can view it impersonally) how, in ten minute time any given morning, he can have every youngster “roaring mad” without any effort on his part. I’m telling you this, in hopes that you will learn self control in speech. Learn to say and do the kind thing automatically, then in times of crisis it doesn’t desert you.”
Finally, she offers some cold comfort for my Dad’s (apparent) complaining about his life in the merchant marines:
“Your last letter sounded so blue; is your liver all right? I think you should be thankful you *could* rest your hours off duty. What if you had a colicky baby who kept you awake all night after a day like those you spoke of? Or a willful wife who nagged because you weren’t doing more so she could have a new fur coat, because the one you bought her two summers ago was out of style. Guess what Poppy said “He oughtn’t to mind cooking the food and serving it. After all, he didn’t have to provide it.” He said to tell you you’d know what work and worry really was when you had a wife and ten kids of your own.”
“Is your liver all right?” That just cracks me up.
Anyway, to strong old women everywhere, I bring Lily (the doll’s) stories, and I hope that Lily (the woman) would have liked them.
Mom (uncharacteristically smiling) and my Uncle John in a rowboat in Central Park, NY.