Plastic Pals — Dolls of Yesteryear

My first doll. I got her for my 5th birthday in 1952. Annabelle was only produced by Madame Alexander for one year. She was my first and my favorite. I adored her and she was always with me. This pretty little girl is a 16-inch Toni by Ideal. She is virtually identical to the doll […]

Daily Prompt: Prized Possession — Annabelle

Annabelle was a doll made by Madame Alexander. She was in production for one year only — 1952 — the year I turned five. My mother loved dolls, but she had grown up poor. She had only had one doll in her entire life, a china-headed doll she got from her mother. That was a […]

Plastic Faces, Plastic Smiles

I collect hard plastic and composition dolls from the 1930s through 1960s, with a few a little newer and a few a bit older.

Two “identical” Margaret (Margaret O’Brien) dolls.

In theory, every doll of a “type” is the same as every other doll of that type. All Toni dolls should look the same. But they don’t. No two dolls look exactly the same.

Cissy, as a bride. Madame Alexander, all original.

Minor variations in how they set in their molds and were finished after being removed from their molds. The person who painted them … and what batch of paint colors were used. Up through the 1960s, all dolls’ faces were hand painted, so there were always small differences between them. Many dolls even today are hand-painted.

Cissy, in her couturier outfit made especially for her. Madame Alexander, restored.

Eyebrows will be shaped differently, some with more or less arch to it. Lips may be poutier or more rounded and the two sides of the face don’t usually exactly match. Like real people.

Sixteen inch Tony in designer dress, platinum hair. A very popular doll.

Dolls also came in different sizes, and sixteen inch Toni bore only a sisterly resemblance to twenty-three inch Toni.

Another sixteen inch Toni, dressed for a patriotic holiday … auburn hair, this time.

Big sister Toni, 22 inches, and all original, even her hair … a color that I cannot name since this color wig is no longer produced.

Twenty two-inch Toni, all original, including her wig.

To me, my dolls have their own faces, as obviously different to my eyes as are people. My plastic friends with their plastic faces, smiling gently day and night.

Dolls, Plants, and the Light From the East …

Facing east towards the deck and the woods, the morning light streams in … so the plants live in front the french doors that lead to the deck. Of course, that means we virtually never open the doors because we’d have to move the plants. So, we use the dutch door in the kitchen. But the dining room doors are lovely

On the top shelf, above the dolls, you can see three of my Tang dynasty Chinese zodiac figures. The cradle with the baby doll in it (it’s a 1950s Betsy Wetsy) … I built it from a kit and painted it myself. Underneath the cradle and the dolls is the sewing machine I don’t know how to use. But I might learn someday. Yeah, sure.

Do you see George Washington and Abraham Lincoln back there?

There are a lot more dolls in the dining room … in fact, they occupy every surface on which a doll can stand. The big green thing on the chair is my 4 string mountain dulcimer. It is beautiful. But you can’t tell because it’s in its case.

The big Dracaena Marginata has been with me for close to 12 years and urgently needs repotting. It’s so heavy and tall it is a hard for me to move it, much less re-pot it. I’m going to add some topsoil to the pot and give it a feeding and hope that will do the job. If it gets any bigger, I’ll have to re-home it anyhow.

I got the two Christmas cacti as cuttings and they bloom beautifully several times a year. Ignoring them is to the key to success. I call it “benevolent neglect.” Succulents thrive on it.

The Office


It’s full of dolls on shelves. My photos hang on the walls next to paintings, an original Donald Duck cover art print, a signed Leonard Bergman print of Jerusalem. More dolls, some in a cabinet, some just standing wherever there’s a bit of space, and the clock chirps each hour with a different bird song.

My cameras are everywhere. The bookcase is mostly full of boxes containing software I haven’t gotten around to installing. If I wait long enough, it will be obsolete and never be installed. Protein bars, sports drinks full of electrolytes. The modem and router live next to the printer. Tired keyboards that still work and I hang on to lest we have a keyboard emergency. A variety of long dead cellphones here, there and elsewhere. A paean to the speed at which technology changes.

Manuals I wrote, and manuals for equipment and software I haven’t had for years. A few pieces of antique glass and pottery.

More dolls.

Manila envelopes, spare ink cartridges, reams of paper and a variety of medications, flashlights, old toys, and art that I wish I could afford to frame. Some of my friends are artists … they gave me wonderful artwork, but I’m too poor to do anything but feel bad that it isn’t on the wall. But even if I framed it, there’s no room to put it up.

My world, in one room. My room. It’s cluttered, needs to be repainted because Peptol Bismol pink is not a color to live with long-term. I can’t remember what I was thinking when I painted it this color. Maybe I felt it was cheerful. It is very cheerful. Exceedingly pink.

The little dolls live all together in a cabinet. Tightly packed, but I’m sure they don’t mind. Maybe two dozen more live in boxes in the closet.

My desk is huge and made of solid oak.My favorite pair of computer glasses fell behind the desk in July. It’s now September and they are still there. I can see them, but I can’t get them. No one can reach them and the desk is far too heavy to move without disassembling it. So there my glasses remain. Maybe, someday, we’ll figure out how to get to them.

There are many things back there. It’s quite the treasure trove of lost items. Permanently lost, probably.

This is where I write, edit photographs, listen to audiobooks and answer email. I play online Scrabble, pay the bills and manage the household. The house is my home, but this is my home in my home.


Weekly Writing Challenge: Old Favorite Things

As a child, I collected books. I had no money of my own, but my mother was a sucker for books, and though almost everything else from those log ago days have been lost, I still have some of the books I loved as a child.

Three Margaret O’Brien dolls, from Madame Alexander, all dressed in original clothing.

I was born to collect, but lack of funds and a home of my own limited me until I hit my stride as a married, working adult. Armed with money, I could choose from an entire world of beautiful things. Although many collections have come and gone, three things have remained constant: the dolls of my girlhood, antique porcelain, and books.

I no longer collect. The shelves, walls, bookcases and every other place that might house a collectible is full. The “No Vacancy” sign has gone up on our lives. We are in the “cutting down,” not acquiring stage.

She was my second doll, for my sixth birthday..

My favorite dolls — now a mere couple of hundred from who-knows-how-many — surround me. In every room, in hallways, on high shelves and in glass-fronted cabinets, dolls stand, smile and wave. At night, they whisper secrets about the things they’ve seen, places and people they’ve known. I wish I could hear them, but their voices are too soft. They speak amongst themselves, not for human ears.

Cissy, the original and greatest ever fashion doll.

I restored her, including recreating as closely as I could, her original outfit. No small achievement since I really can’t sew.

I’ve held onto a modest, but satisfying collection of my antique Chinese porcelain too.

The dolls were born of my  never-ending attempt to reconnect with something happy from a difficult childhood, but the porcelain grew from my love of history.

A Han pot, probably used in a kitchen. Han pottery was the first mass-produced pottery, the “Tupperware:” of its day (206 BC – 220 AD)

I wish my porcelain could talk because oh, the stories it could tell. When I hold a perfect 5,000 year-old pot, I imagine the lives that pot has touched. How many kitchens it has lived in, how many different things were stored in it.

This style of Tang pottery was entirely decorative, but not for kings or princes, but to add beauty to the homes of ordinary peasants. (618 – 906 AD)

I feel a little buzz when I hold the very oldest of my porcelain pieces –a painted vase from China’s neolithic period — and imagine the history to which it has been witness. It was made at a time when Europeans were still living in caves and wearing animal skins, yet the Chinese were making painted pots of fired river clay, pre-porcelain from the earliest human civilization. I have Han pot, a Tang horseman, vases and some bronze pieces that span thousands of years.

At night, when I take off my earrings, I drop it into a Qing dynasty Tongzhi/Guangxu late 19th century “Cabaret dish.” I have Eucalyptus branches in a Jun vase with a shiny black glaze that at first I couldn’t believe was real, but turned out to be genuine.

Qianlong (1736-1795) porcelain.

I have a set of Sui musicians, and although I know they have been repaired and are not entirely original (I would never have been able to afford them if they were perfect … they’d be in a museum, not on my mantel), I love them no less for their needing reconstruction. If I were 1,500 years old, I’d probably need a bit of reconstruction too.

These are a few of my favorite things, but my favorite of all favorites is Annabelle.

Annabelle was made for one year by Madame Alexander. The year was 1952 and for my 5th birthday, my mother gave me Annabelle. How I loved her. She slept with me. I talked to her. I dressed her each day and when her wig wore out, my mother sent her to a doll hospital and had her touched up, restrung and re-wigged. When I left for Israel, I still had Annabelle, the one and only surviving physical piece of my childhood. I didn’t want to take her with me, so I gave her to my best friend’s daughter … who has her still.

A few years ago I was lucky to find another Annabelle, one identical to the doll I’d gotten for my birthday. And she is still my favorite doll, my favorite almost-a-person.

This is Annabelle. My perfect doll friend.

She is my friend and I still talk to her.

There are dolls all over the house and everyone talks to them, the same way we talk to our dogs. We don’t expect them to answer, but they are very good listeners.

The pottery is elegantly arrayed in my living room, on the mantel, in display cases in the dining room and a few pieces in the bedroom. Dolls stand atop every bookcase, on shelves throughout the house. Several hundred pairs of eyes, watching me. I like it.


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