Apr 3, 2012

I think I figured it out.

What it is about those hand-made, homely rag dolls that just appeal to me so much.  Maybe it's because they represent a child's ability to use her imagination...a time when a box of jacks, a jump rope, a pair of skates were GREAT toys. 

I'd like to think it only began in the last little while, but I know it's been developing for several decades: the atrophying of imagination in our children.  Sure the little ones still have it, but as soon as they get the first game (on whatever system you care to name), it begins.  I risk being thrown in with all the old farts that glorify "the good old days".  Maybe I belong there.  But here's an example of what I mean.

Once, when I was maybe ten years old, my Uncle G.A. (that's really what we called him) dropped by to bring something to my mom & dad.  I didn't know or care what he brought; grownup stuff, whatever.  What I remember vividly was that he had to go into the trunk of his car to get it.  Of course my sister and I had to stick our noses in.  And there...we spied these humongous nails in a cardboard box.  They were probably 8" long!  We were enthralled. Who knew they made nails that big?

Now, lest you think we had no toys, I had a Barbie (Miss America, I think) and roller skates and other fine toys--same as any middle-class American kid had growing up in the early '70's.  But we were so excited about those nails.  No, it didn't occur to my mom to be worried when Uncle G.A. gave us each what amounted to an 8" steel spike, but I distinctly remember my uncle laughing at our excitement over them, and telling Mom we really must need toys badly.  Mom answered that we could entertain ourselves for hours with a cardboard box.  (Maybe after that Uncle G.A. thought his nieces were a little slow, come to think of it.)

So how does this relate to rag dolls?  Because when I go to the thrift shop, there are TONS of toys.  Most of them--especially the dolls and stuffed animals--look to be in mint condition.  I admit this is not a new theme for me.  But today as I thought about the charm of a mom-made, early rag doll, the memory of our 8 penny nails resurfaced.  I'm surely romanticizing it, to think that a girl of the mid 1800's would rather have a rag doll made of Papa's pajamas if she COULD have a fine porcelain French Bebe.  Still, reading original accounts of surviving old cloth dolls, it's clear they were treasured, whether their features were crookedly drawn with charcoal or finely stitched in colored thread. 

I wonder if I gave my nine year old grandson an 8 penny nail (putting aside his horrified mother and the social workers for a second), how long, or even if, he would be entertained?  Likely he'd look at me like Granny Jan was nuts,
and ask if he could go in and play Take Over the Universe on Xbox.

Now it's time for me to toddle off to Old Fart Land and play with my dolls.  See ya.  :~)


  1. I have a rag doll that I made called Victoria. She sits near me where I sew. I have gotten more compliments about her and everyone who sees her in person picks her up and gives her a hug. There is something about a rag doll that does speak to that "little girl" in all of us:)

  2. I really enjoyed this post Jan. I grew up in the 50's (yea, I'm really an old fart)....we played in the creek, didn't wear a seat belt, didn't wear a helmet when we skated or rode our bikes, we drank direclty from the hose, and shared pop bottles. We came home when it got dark, climbed trees, and used our imaginations daily!!! We watched only Father approved television (nothing bad was even on the television then) and stayed out of trouble because we could get a whipping from Dad.................(never got one) We raised our children on a farm in the 80's and luckily they were able to enjoy many of those freedoms too. But, I fear those days are a thing of the past. Parents today are afraid to even discipline their children, let alone allow them to play at anything that could possibly hurt them. I fear our future generations will suffer greatly for the loss of not allowing our children to be children! Okay, I will get off my soapbox.......THE DOLLY IS DARLING!

    1. I know, right? Now we worry because of what goes into their minds via Jersey Shore instead whether they find a snake in the field behind the house.

  3. I grew up in the 1940's when all the neighborhood children gathered together to play (AFTER home chores were done). The best play time always began with someone saying, "Let's play like . . . ." Ah, what imaginations were exercised!
    Great blog, Jan Love you

  4. Looks like this topic hits home to many of us. I remember making toys to play with when I was little. My sisters and I played, "let's play like" and could turn a throw rug into a boat and branches from the bushes into fishing poles. We learned to sew scraps of material into doll dresses and oatmeal boxes became a drums. I wanted my children to have the same things while they were growing up but peer pressure had already moved in and made kids feel they were being cheated if they didn't have what all of their friends had. Enjoy your day and I love the rag doll. Hugs

  5. oh I was a child during the fifties, (can't say grew up cos... guess what..never did!) anyway I know what you mean.

    I love your last line
    "Now it's time for me to toddle off to Old Fart Land and play with my dolls. See ya. :~) "
    I'll be there!!!


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