Saturday, November 19, 2011

I've been hunting

...for the original clothes for my American Girl "Kirsten" doll ever since I brought her out of storage for Maya and Sophie to play with. Until a few months ago, she was packed up in a clear zippered bag on a shelf in the basement, just waiting for the day my daughters were ready.

This summer, when one of Maya's generous friends decided to just GIVE her an (extra) American Girl doll...(and a Bitty Baby for Sophie, and dresses and accessories, etc.) it was time. I decided to get my Kirsten out, so that when another friend came over to play (that same day), they could play together. But my doll had no clothes. I just knew that they were packed away carefully in a shoe box...somewhere. I asked my parents to search my old closet, the garage storage, the crawl space...

When I was little, I knew that ownership of such a doll was no small thing. In fact, no one gave her to me. I'm pretty sure I knew better than to even ask. I carefully studied (or memorized) the catalog as I saved my money...for...years. When I finally had the $90, I ordered her.

Just the doll. Not the extra accessories...

Not any of the other outfits or books or furniture either. I made those. I sewed a detailed quilt by hand, my dad built a poster bed, and I made pillows, a sham, a fitted sheet & top sheet, I made her an apron, my mother sewed her an extra dress. I loved this doll. And I loved the historic time she represented and all the ways she excited my imagination.

I do have issues with the whole game that the "American Girl" company runs. While there are a few great ideals wrapped up in the "American Girl" package, it mostly seems to be a slick and brilliant business, marketing endless products and accessories, all exhorbitantly priced, offering branding and identity shaping, early materialism building.... The whole machine makes me a bit cynical.

But I'm obviously still (a little?) guiltily hooked. I try to be a skeptic, but deep down, it's really hopeless for me.

After that day that I pulled my Kirsten out of storage, I did a little internet searching on her. She's 'retired' now, and sells for over $300 new. Not that I'd ever try to sell her (she's not in good enough shape if I did)...I was however a bit more desperate to find those original clothes. I called my parents again. I went there and dug through my old closet myself. No luck.

Tonight, as Ryan pulled down the Christmas boxes from the garage attic, he found a box, a huge forgotten plastic tub. He thought it might hold some of my childhood things. He was right. It was filled with baby blankets and six labeled shoe boxes, each a treasure chest for a sentimental mother of two little daughters. Inside the tub, I found my old Madame Alexander baby doll from my Aunt Connie, my only "Barbie" (not a real worldly Barbie, of course. Mine was actually a Biblical "Esther" doll purchased at the local Christian book store), my Hatian doll (brought back by missionaries), a white and pink quilt from my bed, a few of my prettiest baby clothes, several doll dresses, and my beloved "Sarah" cabbage patch doll.

I had a handsewn "cabbage patch-wanna-be doll" for a long time (that someone made lovingly for me, I'm sure), but it just was never the same to me. I always wanted a real one, like all my friends had. When I was seriously ill in the hospital as a five-year-old, my next-door neighbors bought one for me. I still remember opening the box in my hospital bed. She had long brown hair and brown eyes like mine. She wore authentic cabbage patch accessories, white & pink pin-stripe jeans, white tennis shoes with pink stripes, a pink rain jacket (all found preserved in this magical bin). Owning her then made me feel SO rich.

And in the box on the bottom, Kirsten's things. The pillow I made for her bed with a ruffled edge and heart hand stiched in the center, a red flannel nightgown (which will be perfect for our Corbin family Christmas red-flannel pajamas tradition) and Kirsten's original dress and apron.

I'm full of once forgotten memories now, and...pretty excited to reveal my treasures in the morning to my two sleeping girls.

Friday, November 18, 2011

day for giving thanks

On days like today, it's so easy. The wind keeps roaring wildly as it passes by the house and plows into the siding. The leaves are swirlng everywhere and the golden sunlight makes all of it glow. (I know, I have an obnoxiously recurring thing about 'golden sunlight' and wind. I just can't get over them. I think these kind of days force me to blog becuase I feel just too full.) When I happen to notice life-giving beauty for a moment, it seems time-less and mesmerizing, and I desperately want to store it make it through the not-so-beautiful days.

The perfection of the magical picture outside my window isn't real. I'm well aware. Life just isn't quite that picturesque. For the past three weeks, I've been sick, ...hacking and coughing, struggling to breathe every night. Sore and weak from not sleeping, I've been grumpy and whiny too. In my exhaustion I tend to worry about things I care deeply about but can't solve. I've also begun to feel that nagging sense of urgency about my students' upcoming concert and my lack of remaining rehearsal time.

Ryan was gone on a business trip the night before last, and my single-mom-for-a-night self was frustrated and impatient with my squirelly children who where being silly and ridiculous and NOT getting ready for bed after a late night out at Wednesday night church. After a tearful saga and loud and a rather dramatic bedtime routine, we all finally slept.

Yesterday, the girls played with their Nana, while I spent the day listening to beautiful (as well as awful) violin, viola, and cello sounds, listening to (and attempting to offer wise advice? for) elementary playground conflicts, passing out bandaids, comforting tears, and hearing delightful stories about hours spent practicing and new songs memorized.

Now today, all seems well again. So my gratitude kicks in. Looking back, my week was just busy enough, with days at home, and work that I love at school. I feel full and accomplished and overflowing with gratitude for this restful day. My love for my students is growing as I watch them grow and our knowledge of one another grows too. They delighted me with enthusiastic stories of their practicing accomplishments this week.

Ryan arrived back home last night after two business trips in two weeks. And today, after work he begins his full week of vacation. (I'm envisioning a new mantle built over the fireplace and boxes of Christmas decorations being unpacked, stockings hung, lights twinkling...)

Sophie is sleeping upstairs after our fun morning of bringing Maya to school, sipping our coffee and chocolate milk at Starbucks, cleaning our house, reading stories, and bringing birthday oranges to Great Grandpa Andy & Grandma Marge. While we were there, Sophie got several rides down the hall on their walker (which I think is only used for giving Sophie rides?). They made her a bowl of Mrs. Grass chicken noodle soup at her request (at 10:30 AM!?) and a cup of instant coffee for me. We dug around their apartment through three bedrooms full of old cassette tapes, VHS tapes, books, pictures, boxes of yarn and old greeting cards searching for the DVD of Anne of Green Gables. The grandchildren bought it for Grandma last year for Mother's Day, but she couldn't remember where it was. When we finally found it, we discovered a broken DVD/VHS player. A problem that will need to be solved soon.

But the time was lovely, and I can't get over how grateful I am that my daughters have such rich connections with (four sets!! of ) grandparents and great grandparents. I've always had special grandparent connections too, but mine always lived far away, and my Great Grandparents where all gone before I was born. My children have an almost daily kind of life with Grandparents. Something I never even imagined. Today, Sophie's 93 year old great grandfather hopped down to his knees (as if it were no big deal) to give her a big good-bye hug. She ran to meet him (and I envisioned, with horror, her wild force knocking him over) and gave him a gentle hug. (phew)