When Memories Leak Out of My Eyes

Sometimes memories sneak out of my eyes and roll down my cheeksI don’t know if it is an effect of getting older, or just the weird case of the sads that I have been going through for a few months, but the memories sneak up on me and leak out of my eyes.  I’ve had a few incidents over the last few months.

Not to say that it is a bad thing, because it certainly isn’t.  I’m happy to have memories that bring back such small feelings.  And those memories are usually jogged by my seeing something, smelling something, or hearing something (like a piece of music).  And I suppose as I get older, these things will happen more often, as bits of my childhood get further and further away.

When my mother visited a couple months ago, she brought things to pass to me.  This happens every year, but the older she gets, the bigger the pile of passed on things get.  This year it was linens, costume jewelry, pictures, and souvenirs that belonged to my grandmother.  And it also included something from my own childhood, that I had nearly forgotten about.  And my mom, for whatever reason, didn’t hand it to me directly.  She put it in a box with a tea set she wanted me to have, and I didn’t open that box until she’d been gone more than a month. I didn’t even notice the styrofoam box under my desk for weeks.  When I pulled it out to see what she’d accidentally left behind…

Kewpie dollKewpie.  I hugged her tiny body to my face and cried.  I couldn’t help it.  I’m sitting here teary right now just writing this.  I don’t remember when I got her, or where she came from originally, although in my mind she is strongly associated with my grandmother.  My mother will have to clear up the details on Kewpie for me, because I just don’t remember.  I do know that I’ve had Kewpie my whole life, as far as I can remember.

Kewpie is a peculiar set of dolls and figurines created by Rose O’Neill, a Missouri artist, beginning in 1912.  By the 1920’s, the dolls were being made in cellulose, then came rubber, and other composite materials.  I am not sure what mine is made of, but she is soft (you can squish her a bit) and the rubbery coating is a bit sticky with age.  She has some dirty marks on her that won’t come off, and she shows some wear, but is in pretty good shape for a doll I suppose was made in the 50’s or 60’s. My Kewpie is about 9 inches tall, but Kewpies came in lots of sizes, some smaller than mine, and many bigger.

Most Kewpies came sans clothing, and the outfit she wears in my memories was made from some scraps of fabric from a dress my mother made me when I was little.  I hated that dress, for whatever reason.  It was a pretty peach pastel plaid with gold thread, had criss-cross straps, and lots of lace.  I hated that dress, I just don’t remember why.  Maybe it was itchy.  I was probably 4 or so when I had that dress.  But I liked the little pantsuit made from scraps that Kewpie wore.  I remember, maybe incorrectly, that my grandmother made the little pantsuit for Kewpie.  I don’t know what happened to that original outfit, but a few years ago (probably almost 20 years ago now), my mother made her a new outfit, the one you see in the picture.  That fabric is left from quilt scraps, from my mother making me a quilt.  And see the little pocket?  It holds a penny.  Any time my mom makes a little dress for a doll, it gets a penny-pocket.  Even dollies need mad money!

Doll high chairAnd then there was this.  Tater and I were out trolling the thrift shops, like we like to do on any given Saturday.  At one of my favorite ones was this doll high chair.  I don’t know why it made me cry, except it is in my memories somewhere, too.  I either had one when I was a child, or maybe my cousins had one (we spent a lot of time with them when I was young).  I am not sure.  The memory is really non-specific, but every detail seemed to trigger my feelings.  The little tray that would lift up so I could put the dolly in, the very 60’s fabric on the cushions, all of it.  Of course, it’s a miniature version of the type of high chairs that were being used when I was a small one, back in the early 60’s, so that may be all there is to that memory.  But still, it made me smile, and it made me cry.  Kind of silly for a grown woman to lose her face in a thrift store, and not even be able to articulate clearly why.

But really, the memories are great to have.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Maybe it’s time for me to go through my keepsake trunk again, and remind myself of what is there.  I haven’t done that in a long time.  Might have to pick up a box of Puffs before I do that, though.

(P.S. If you ever get to Branson, Missouri, take a short side trip to the Ralph Foster Museum at the College of the Ozarks.  Their museum (admission is very cheap) has a wonderful collection of Kewpie dolls and memorabilia, and a tribute to Rose O’Neill, who died in poverty after creating one of the most iconic dolls of the 20th century.)

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