That Little Girl

I was a late 1960’s/1970’s child and yes, back then I believed in a world where anything was possible.

Anna & Jane

As that little girl I had a family of dolls, and yes, they were a family.  They all had names, they all had personalities, they were always dressed (mostly in clothes my mother sewed for them).  Actually I still have the dolls and while many collectors would snap them up, I couldn’t part with them.  I don’t quite have them all.  One I was ‘encouraged’ to give away to ‘starving children’ somewhere in Africa (Ethiopia rings a bell).  My brother, a year older than me, also gave up his teddy bear for the same purpose.  But I think he was slightly more willing than I was, especially after Mum sewed a new outfit for my doll and I fell in love with her all over again.  Interestingly, I also don’t still have my Malibu Barbie.  I loved her too and was very proud to have one, but I have no idea what happened to her.  The others though, were life and blood for me.  My reason for being.

I had two older brothers, who while close in age, had little desire to play with their young sister.  My parents, who clearly loved me very much, also had little time to play in my world, because they were busy being adults and just not that sort of people.  Apart from playing the occasional family board games with the rest of the family, I really don’t have any memory of playing with any of them, my parents or my brothers.

Like I said, I believed anything was possible and so I believed my dolls were real.  Like The Velveteen Rabbit, I loved them so much that they were REAL.

“What is REAL?” asked the Velveteen Rabbit one day… “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When [someone] loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.
“Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand… once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.” 

Margery Williams,    The Velveteen Rabbit or How Toys Become Real

So what do I mean when I say they were real?  These dolls talked to me (and I talked to them).  They were truly my family and to part with the one I gave away to charity was more than a little difficult.  It’s not that my family didn’t love me and take good care of me, and it’s not that I didn’t have friends, but they were busy doing their own things so I think I created my own family with the dolls.

Actually looking back I think it was the most sensible thing I could have done.  As a child, I think the reality of these dolls saved my mental health.  Interestingly my mental health started to suffer when I was twelve, about the time I packed the dolls away into a box in the cupboard.  At that time there was no diagnosis made, my parents didn’t think to seek help, but looking back I was deeply depressed.  There were other reasons for that depression.  I’m not saying it was packing my toys away that caused it but I find it interesting that it was around the same time.

I’ve said in earlier posts that sometimes being silly is vital to saving your mental health.  I guess being silly as a little girl meant imagining my dolls talked and having great, involved conversations with them (perhaps because there was no one else on hand to talk to).  I still think being silly is necessary for my mental health, whether it is talking to my cat, my teddy bear or even talking to the wall, like Shirley in the movie Shirley Valentine (1989).  She talked to the kitchen wall while she cooked her husband’s dinner.  It makes perfect sense to me.

The thing is that the little girl, who was me, didn’t know that everything wasn’t possible.  I’m guessing she dreamt of having people to play with and talk to, not just in the play times but always.  To have people who were interested in her and her ideas.  She didn’t know it wasn’t possible so she allowed herself to create the world she needed.  So she had conversations with inanimate objects.  So what?  She believed in a world that was full and unbroken, where she didn’t get disappointed by others, where dreams could come true and in making that happen, she did what she needed to in order to look after herself.

It’s not so silly after all, is it?

“Grown-ups never understand anything for themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.”
~Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince, 1943

“In every real man a child is hidden that wants to play.”
~Friedrich Nietzsche


7 thoughts on “That Little Girl

  1. colineagle

    I can relate a lot to this. But I did that mostly with animals, never really liked talking to stuffed bears, but the chickens near my house were all ears to me :D. I grew in a small city in the countryside, so I could roam a lot and find many different animals to talk to… even insects. Maybe that’s why I kind of like then.

    1. Thanks for saying that Colin. It’s so nice to knwo when people get it. And doing the same with animals makes perfect sense to me. I wasn’t allowed pets so stuck with what I had. I probably would have resorted talking to the wall if I hadn’t had my dolls. 🙂

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  3. I’ll have to watch the movie you talked about. It sounds really interesting. Your post made me think of a movie I saw not too long ago on Netflix called, “Opal Dreams.” It was an unusual movie, but it certainly made you think about what is real and what is not. It’s about a family of four, struggling to make a living like everyone else, whose daughter has two “imaginary” friends. The question you have to decided for yourself, as the movie progresses — and it isn’t silly at all; it’s a very serious movie — is whether or not these friends are real. They are incredibly real to the little girl!!

  4. On a light note I suspect you would enjoy that movie. 🙂 And I’me going to check out the movie you mentioned. It sounds good. Imaginery friends tend to be the butt of jokes on movies so I like that they take it seriously because as you say it is very real to the littel girl. Thanks.

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