Back in the days when I grew up dolls were simply toys that let us venture into the world of pretend. It was good to pretend. It was an escape from real life that was relaxing.
My dolls were well cared for. They spent their life in an upstairs extra bedroom at my grandmother's and grandfather's house. Grandma insisted that I keep my dolls clothed. Sometimes after I had company I was the one who had to get the dolls back in shape.
First I had a small doll buggy that my grandfather made for me. I took my "babies" for rides up and down the street. Grandpa used some old wheels that he had and added a wooden box with a half cover for a top. I never realized that my doll buggy was not like the rest of the girls in the neighborhood. My buggy was special because grandpa made it for me.
When I got too tall for the little buggy, Santa brought me a new one. There are pictures of me with both of these buggies in the family archives. The small buggy went to my girl cousins but I think I sold the larger one when I no longer wanted to use it.
My favorite doll as a youngster was one with a composition head and cloth body. I called her my "Beppy" doll but I am not sure why. Her eyes opened and shut and she cried because of a little box inside her tummy when she was put down. One day my friend dropped Beppy on the sidewalk as we were playing. I was devastated. Even though I had other baby dolls, Beppy was my favorite one.
One Christmas I asked for a "Tiny Tears" doll. When you fed her a bottle of water she cried, real tears. I actually got two dolls that year, but not the one I wanted. We placed our gifts beneath the tree a week or so before Christmas. The one package really intrigued me. When I shook it, it rattled. Every chance I got I was under the tree shaking it. Guess what? It was a doll with eyes that opened and closed. The noise I heard was the eyes. By the time I opened the gift one eye no longer functioned as it was supposed to!
That Christmas I also got the only boy doll that I ever had. He was nearly three feet tall with red hair and freckles. He reminded me of Howdy Dowdy. He must have been in the sun too long because some of his freckles ran together. I remember that I really enjoyed having him but sad to say he did not have many changes of clothes.
When I outgrew that type of doll I spent some of my birthday money to buy what was called a "Ginny" doll. She was only about six inches tall but she looked like a little girl instead of a baby. There were loads of clothes and accessories that could be purchased for the Ginny doll. My relatives were never at a loss for what to buy me for an occasion.
I made her a closet out of an old cigar box. I put cup rings in the top so I could hang up her outfits. I liked my Ginny doll so much that I picked one out for my cousin for either Christmas or her birthday. While mine had blond hair, hers had brown hair so we could always tell them apart. When she came to grandma's she often brought her doll.
For those of you wondering why I did not mention having a Barbie doll, they had not been invented. The Ginny doll was the precursor.
Some of my best memories of growing up were those of pretending. Maybe I pretended a lot because I was an only child. I played alone most of the time when I was at home. Although I pretended I knew the difference between make believe and real. When I was out and about I focused on real things.
Children today grow up too soon. While I appreciate the place for sports, I see participating in sports as forcing children to grow up too soon. There is no time for pretending. They are into producing for the sport or sports that they choose. I believe they are missing out on an important part of life. Pretending is escaping. They participate in parallel play with an imaginary entity. There is no pressure like there is in sports. They are allowed to be children for a longer period of time.
Girls were not the only ones who pretended. The boys played with toy soldiers and cowboy and Indian paraphernalia. There was an innocence to that period of time that does not exist for many children today.
Pretending did not disappear with my generation. My children also enjoyed the world of make believe. They played with a "Chiperoo Bunkhouse" that provided hours of fun. They chased each other in cowboy outfits complete with cap guns. They had model horses with cowboys and Indians to ride them.
Our children were content to be at home. They played with each other. They took picnic lunches out into the pasture. They made houses and offices between bushes and trees. They picked wild berries for a snack while they played. They did not beg for friends to come over. Their play was a self-contained thing where they were comfortable. Of course, they welcomed the visits by their cousins.
They played with the toy tractors and machinery. A lot of "field work" was done in the lawn and on the oval braided rug.
Encourage the young ones to pretend. It is very calming.
Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, PA. Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org