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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Christmas Countdown Nostalgia

Hello and welcome to Day 12 in my Countdown to Christmas blog! Well, here we go again with another story of Aunt Sis. She loved dolls and had quite a handsome collection of them. From the time I was a little girl, visits to Aunt Sis’s were very special. She lived in a Victorian house high on a terrace surrounded by rose bushes, a vegetable garden and herbs planted in the shape of a Celtic cross. A wreath of dried flowers, babies breath and eucalyptus graced the front door. Chimes invited guests into a simple home rich in hospitality. Upon entering the home, the scent of dry rose petals and herbs filled the air. Tiny sachet baskets sat in nooks all about the house, keepsakes she made for her nieces. But my favorite room in the house was the bedroom at the top of the second landing. It was her daughter’s room when she lived there, and I’ll never forget the first time I walked in.

Baby dolls were everywhere you could imagine, each a different size and shape. They sat in rocking chairs, in a cozy corner alcove, on the mantel. One slept on the bed and another in an old-fashioned wooden cradle. As most little girls, I was drawn in and completely mesmerized. The dolls didn’t look anything like the ones I had at home. No Barbie dolls, no Tress doll or Little Women. They were…well…soft and pliable and all dressed in clothes that looked old. I remember feeling as if I had just walked into another place and time. My aunt, coming in behind me, smiled, puffing her chest out with pride.

“These are all my Bunny’s dolls from when she was a little girl. And rather than giving her clothes away when she outgrew them, I dressed my doll babies in them. See.”

She took me to the wooden cradle, a family heirloom of many years. A rag baby slept inside with a glass face. She was donned in a long, flowing Christening gown and cap, yellow with age. I watched Aunt Sis gingerly pick her up and hold her over her shoulder, as if burping her. I stared in awe, thinking how real the baby doll looked. A far away look came into my aunt’s eyes, reliving her daughter’s Christening from all those years ago. I went to the rocking chair, afraid to touch…even though my fingers itched to pick it up and see what it felt like.

“Go on,” Aunt Sis said, reading my mind. “She won’t break. Isn’t she pretty? She’s sitting in Bunny’s rocking chair and that precious blue chiffon dress was what she wore for her first birthday party.”

Aunt Sis was very family oriented and very sentimental. Calling her baby dolls doll babies was one of the many things that made her one in a million.

As I got older, more of the story unfolded. While Aunt Sis wanted to keep the memories of her daughter by dressing up her doll babies in their respective outfits, there was more to the story. It turned out Aunt Sis never got over her fetish for dolls. She loved and cherished them and never got over her little girl adoration. And once the truth was out of the bag, all the nieces in the family began buying “doll babies” for Aunt Sis for every birthday and Christmas. But rather than choosing doll babies that resembled Bunny, we all found ourselves on a quest for doll babies resembling Aunt Sis.

The last Christmas present I gave my aunt before she died was a doll baby I found at a garage sale. She was a rag doll dressed up in overalls, high boots, and huge sun hat. She was holding a watering can. A little chill shot through me. The doll baby resembled Aunt Sis when she toiled about in her garden of roses, vegetables and herbs. It was the perfect gift. When I gave it to Aunt Sis that year, she teared up and clutched it close to her heart and said she would cherish it forevermore.

Aunt Sis is fondly remembered in my family for her “Doll Babies” and her doll parties and doll house. But those are stories for another day. But for now, I imagine my aunt, floating about in the billowy white clouds, surrounded by “Doll Babies” with wings…


Mona Risk said...

Hi Sharon, I love your Christmas stories. They put us in the spirit of the coming celebration.

Kathleen said...

What a nice memory of a very special aunt. I can imagine how magical it was for a child to visit her house

Sharon Donovan said...

Love the Victorian age? I am so very drawn to all that is Victorian. Little heart-shaped sachet pillows made of dry rose petals make the home smell wonderful. Heart-shaped photo frames are another favorite, and one of my personal fetishes is hats. I adore hats and wish they'd make a comeback. I once wore my rust-colored hat with plume feather to work when I worked for an advertising firm. I had to work on Saturdays and when I came into the office, there was a show room with a stairway leading to the offices. My desk and one of my boss's desk overlooked the show room. As I entered, I felt my boss's eyes on me. I came in, set things up and noticed he was quietly observing me, as if contemplating something troubling. Finally he spoke. "You had a message this morning," he said, somber faced. "Bright and early."
"Who was it?" I asked, gingerly removing my hat, careful not to smash the feather as I deposited it on a corner shelf.
"I believe he said his name was Robin Hood."

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Mona, thank you. They are memories I hold near and dear to my heart.

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Kathleen,
They were very magical and alluring for a child. And the best part was every doll baby had a story and Aunt Sis loved regaling family stories over raspberry tea, served in her pink rose teacups.

Hywela Lyn said...

What a lovely story Sharon, and how wonderful to have so many beautiful memories of your Aunt, who was obviously a very special person. Reading about her reminds me of my own special Aunt, Aunty Grace.I'm sorry I'm so late at your blog today, I'm going to leave a picture of one of my own favourite dolls. She has long dark hair down to her ankles and a long, dark green velvet coat, trimmed with white faux fur. Her name is Bernadette.

Thank you for sharing all these lovely, cherished memories.

P.L. Parker said...

What a wonderful memory. Different, interesting. Almost made me sad. Time passes so swiftly, faster every year. Someday we will be the old aunt with the marvelous collection. I collect old pictures of young women back in the 1800s. They're "my ladies."

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Lyn. Your Aunt Gracie was obviously a very special lady, too. I told you, we are related somehow with all these connections. Oh, thank you for posting the picture of Bernadette. Wow, what long hair! And such a pretty outfit. That is the perfect picture for this post. And guess what else? My confirmation name is Bernadette? How's that for yet another coincidence?

Sharon Donovan said...

Hi Patsy,
Chuckle chuckle. One day will be here sooner than we know. LOL And who would think we would ever be the old aunts with the collections? Your collection sounds fascinating. Isn't it great to have a hobby, something special to collect? I collect tiny glass miniatures for my curio, mostly cats. And my dolls? Well, I still have my Little Women dolls, Lady Alexander originals.

Judy said...

Your Aunt Sis seems like she was a special lady. My husband had an Aunt Celeste who died a few years back and she was something else also. I loved her dearly. She was 93 when she died and still got around very good.

Mary Ricksen said...

What a sweet memory! And how wonderful to have had an aunt like that.

Linda Swift said...

I loved this story, Sharon. I feel that I know Aunt Sis. If you haven't written a book with Aunt Sis as the heroine or at least a supporting character, I hope you will. Linda

Julie Robinson said...

That is so sweet, Sharon. You have such heartwarming stories from your life that you really need to incorporate them into scenes and characters in a novel. You've already got it partly written!

Sharon Donovan said...

Hello, ladies! Thanks for commenting on Aunt Sis and her doll babies. Mary, these memories are a part of my heart, ones that always make me smile.
Judy, isn't it great to have an aunt that leaves footprints on our hearts? Someone we all need in our lives.
Linda, you know I have so many stories about Aunt Sis that I have been kicking the idea around. Aunt Sis was one of those special people with simple needs and a heart of gold...
Julie, you and Linda are both inspiring me to get this book going. It would be one of those stories, I think and hope, where readers will think of someone in their own life in which to relate.
Love to all for stopping by and a special thanks to Hywela Lyn for posting your pretty doll baby, Bernadette!

Until next time, may the luck of the Irish be with you as you travel through life.

Love and Blessings,