Haves and Have Nots



I think I was probably in the second or third grade and I loved dolls, but we were very poor.  I had no dolls.  I did have one that came with a cereal box or something, but I never had a real doll and every birthday or Christmas I always wanted a doll.

My mother actually did give me a “dance-me” doll once.  You know the kind that you put on your feet, with the yellow yarn hair, like a Raggedy-Ann type doll, only it was life-size.  So that was a good doll memory.  My dad was a student the whole time I was growing up and my mother always typed until she became a librarian.  But we were so poor.  Three kids.  No money.

So the story is I went to a birthday party for a girl named Jackie who was in my class—and she was, you know, kind of your middle-class girl, but by comparison she had everything.

I don’t think she got this doll at the party.  I think she got this doll given to her for her birthday, but before the party.  Her mother gave it to her, and it was a really special doll.  It was the kind that looks exactly like a baby.  This was in 1960.  I was just so knocked out by this doll.  It might have peed when you gave it a bottle and all that stuff.  But I just remember being so impressed with this doll because it was a very expensive doll.  I was so knocked out by it.  I was playing with it at the party—I kept touching it and Jackie asked me if I wanted to borrow it.  So I said, “Yeah.”  My mom came and took me home, and I took the doll with me.  And so from that point on in my mind it was my doll.  I forgot that Jackie had loaned it to me.  It was my doll.

I probably had her for a few months, and I just loved her.  I probably played with her a little too rough.  I might have given her a name, but I don’t remember.  But that doll went with me everywhere, and I probably wasn’t as careful as I could have been.  So, at one point, I was doing gymnastics and I threw her up in the air, and she fell on the floor and her face completely cracked, like you could have pulled it off.  She had a porcelain face and a white dressing gown.  Her face cracked really badly.  Like completely.  So a couple of things happened.  I kind of lost interest in her.  I’m not proud of this.  I kind of tucked her away because I think I was freaked out thinking this isn’t my doll even though I’d had her for a few months.

So, of course, Jackie started saying right after that, “I need my doll back, I need my doll back, I need my doll back.”  I just kept putting her off, you know.  I mean there was no way we could have ever replaced that doll for her.  We didn’t have any money.  And I just remember putting her off and trying to dodge her at school and it got to be a really big deal and one morning, early in the morning, there was a knock on the door.

When they came to our house, (we lived in a very exclusive neighborhood in the Berkeley hills)… there were five of us in it and, you know, again my dad was a student and we didn’t have any money.  Even though all the houses up there were real mansion-like, I’m sure the mother understood as soon as she was standing on the front porch that there was no money there.  So there was Jackie’s mother and Jackie saying, “We want our doll back now.”  So I said, “Oh, sure,” and I ran into my bedroom and got it with her face cracked like it was, kind of like at the hairline, so I tried to cover it up.  “Here’s your doll.”

They probably didn’t notice right away.  They just left.  I had combed her hair over and you couldn’t tell.  I mean, you wouldn’t be looking for it.  You couldn’t tell.  But the next day at school, Jackie came up to me and said, “Hey,” using her hands to indicate where the doll’s face was cracked off.  I’ll always remember that.  And I just said, “I’m sorry.”  And that was it really.  That was it.  I kind of got off the hook.

I never played with dolls again.  I was probably 10 and I never ever wanted a doll again after that.  I didn’t want to play with them.  That was it.  Jackie and her mother never did anything about it.  They probably had many conversations about it.  I’m sure Jackie got in trouble for lending me the doll in the first place.  The mother was really angry when she was standing at the door, and I’m sure she was angry with Jackie because why did you lend her this doll?  She had bought the doll for her daughter who probably had it only one day before I came along and broke it, and that was that.  It was expensive and I always felt bad about it.

We weren’t friends after that.  End of the friendship.  End of my doll experience.  That was it.  Never spoke to me again and we were in the same class.  Probably neither one of us knew how to deal with it.

I wish I had a happy doll story.  I want to have a happy one.  This brings up a lot about my childhood.  The fact that we really didn’t have money.  The fact that I really did love dolls.  The fact that I was deceptive.  I don’t feel good about it.  It made me feel so bad about myself, but then I got over it.  I was 9 or 10 or whatever.  But thinking about it, I thought dolls should be happy.