When I was married, my husband described my parents as “Time-Warp Beatniks”. That is a good description. We had no television until I was nine and my sister was six, because my parents disapproved of television. This lack made me even less social at school, even though I was never ever good a small talk. I still don’t understand the small talk code.
My mother disliked Barbie, so she conspired with her brothers. We had five girls and two boys in my maternal cousin generation. My mother got the four younger girls all 8 inch china dolls, instead of Barbie. The next summer, the younger boy got one too, since the girls were all sewing and building furniture and generally going to town with them.
I was also given the doll in the picture. She was my grandmother’s china doll, Katherine White Burling. I do not know who sewed the dress that she has on, possibly my great grandmother. The stitches are by hand and tiny. We understood that the dolls’s world was in the late 1800s and since this doll came with a wardrobe, we sewed doll nine patch quilts and my grandmother helped make demure pantaloons for our dolls.
My sister and I did manage to score Barbies eventually, though our china doll world was much more full. The china dolls went with us to Ontario, to Blind River, Canada, where my maternal family has shacks on a lake. We were all allowed to use scrap wood to build tables and chairs and benches and beds, as long as we PUT THE TOOLS AWAY.
Meanwhile, my paternal grandmother, Evelyn Bayers Ottaway, was a brilliant knitter. She taught me to knit at age 8, but it didn’t really take. I learned again in Denmark and still knit. Grandma Ottaway knit elaborate Barbie clothes on microscopic needles. I still have a few of them. They were in the late 1960s and early 70s and really beautiful. One was a tiny knit stole, with a mohair, lined with brown satin. My china dolls stole it from my Barbies. Or perhaps there was an exchange, I don’t know.
The hand sewing came in handy. I have had surgeons ask me where I learned to stitch. “Doll clothes,” I say. They tend to look confused at that.
At one point I had a patient here who was indigenous to the area and age 104. She told me, “When I was in my twenties, even if I dressed like the Caucasian women, they would get up and move to a different pew if I sat by them in church.” I apologized. She told me not to worry, things are changing. So in the photograph, the woman behind my grandmother’s doll is an indigenous weaver. There is a tiny baby on a cradle board. They are having tea together. That is wishful thinking on my part, but we are allowed to wish for peace and work for harmony. Two cultures, still trying to come together with respect.
Blessings and peace you.
For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: culture.