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. :~)