When I was little, my favorite toys were baby dolls. I had dozens of them; I got a new doll every Christmas and birthday. I had dolls that looked like toddlers, dolls that looked like newborns, dolls with hair, dolls without hair, dolls that talked, dolls that lit up, dolls that played music, even a porcelain doll (or my “glass baby” as I called it), the list goes on. If it was a doll made in the 90’s, chances were I had it.
And if I had it, chances were I loved it. Like, love loved it. For instance, I named all of my dolls. At the time, I favored trendy names, like Courtney, Brittany and Amanda. And if you mistook Courtney for Amanda, I was sure to correct you. Each doll baby was special.
Often kids who play with the same toy over and over kind of abuse it, but I respected those dolls and took care of them as if they were real babies. To me, they were the symbols of my future babies, and deserved to be treated as such. I dressed them, swaddled them, and took them for rides in a toy carriage. And it was a carriage, an old fashioned pram, and I loved it. It was maroon with white flowers on the sides with a white canopy. I would tuck my baby into it and push it around the house.
I played with dolls for a long time. Probably longer than I should have. But, like most kids, I loved to imagine what my future would be like. And for me, the only future I wanted or cared to hear about was one involving motherhood and babies. I was basically drowning in unused maternal instinct. I had no younger siblings, no young cousins close, and I wasn’t old enough to babysit. I had no one to smother with my love and affection, so I used my dolls.
A is getting her first baby doll for Christmas. A soft, huggable baby that laughs when you squeeze her. She’s too young to play with it now. Maybe she’ll never play with it at all. I just couldn’t help myself. Yes, I bought it for her, in hopes she will want to be a little mommy herself, but in many ways I bought it for me too. Whenever I see that doll sitting on the floor, waiting to be wrapped, I can’t help but pick her up and give her a gentle squeeze. When I hear her giggle, I see two little girls playing. I see myself as a child loving all my babies, and I see my real baby as her future little girl, and I imagine what her little laugh will sound like, and I smile.
Now, whenever I go to the store, I always walk down the doll aisle. Dolls have changed a lot from when I was growing up, but they still mean the same things to the little girls who are playing with them, so I always straighten the displays so they look their best for their future little mommies. And wherever I am, if I see an errant baby doll, I always pick it up, smooth its hair or clothes, and give it a kiss before placing it back where it belongs. While I love my real life baby far more than I ever thought possible, I can’t help still having a little love for all those doll babies.