“She’s come undone,” the Guess Who sang. “She didn’t know what she was headed for… She’d come undone.”
Indeed she had. I found her on the top shelf of the closet I was cleaning, in a sturdy, brightly coloured box. When I opened it, I found she had fallen to pieces. She was dismembered. She had lost her head.
Still I recognized her of course. She had come into the house under the hill one Christmas time. She was by no means a new doll even then. She had been found by grandma at an antique sale. She was made of composition. She had blue eyes and red hair and she was dressed in a silky pink dress over petticoats. She was more my age than my daughter’s, although she had been so well cared for that she seemed like new, except she was missing one joint on her left pinkie. She had come originally from Eatons catalogue, my mother told my seven-year-old. Her name was Anne Shirley, of Green Gables fame.
I was deeply affected by her condition and I started calling doll shops. No, there were no more doll doctors, I was told by one and all. What, then, happens to sick dolls, I wondered. Listen, I thought, I’ve watched my own grandmother repair my dolls. All it takes is a button hook and new elastics. Just a minute. That sounds familiar. I had already tried to fix her years ago, but I couldn’t get the right tension: doll limbs suddenly became ballistic missiles.
This time, however, I didn’t give up. I searched the internet and began sending emails. Of course there were doll hospitals and medical personnel if I would pack her up and ship her miles away. I decided against cross-border medical care. I didn’t want some customs officer peering in at her. I wrapped that sturdy, bright box in plain brown paper and sent her off to Ottawa.
It was a long convalescence, without visiting hours, just emails of reassurance. Then I found myself in a people hospital far across the continent, sitting beside the doll’s mother, holding her hand, willing her back to us. She did come back and so did Anne.
Last Friday, a big box arrived. I cut the tape as excitedly as the 7 year-old had all those years ago. There she was, all her limbs in place and her head firmly attached to her shoulders. Her complexion sparkled, her blue eyes glowed. Weren’t her lips redder than before? Carefully I unwrapped her clothes. The silky, pink dress, the petticoat, the bonnet, the stockings, even the knickers had been cleaned and pressed. I couldn’t get her boots back on. Had her feet swollen in transit?
So she sits now in the child’s rocking chair that my great grandmother gave me when I was 2, the chair my wood-working son repaired for me. She surveys the room serenely.