“Mommy, can you take Polly Pocket’s dress off? And put her head back on?”
These were definitely not words I ever thought I would hear, but they’ve become a daily occurrence around my house, particularly since Rachel is really into those tiny dolls with even tinier silicon dresses that my giant fingers struggle to put on every day. Unfortunately, in order to get Polly Pocket’s clothes on, sometimes you must sacrifice her head. The first time that happened, it triggered a particularly traumatizing memory for me, from my very early childhood.
Some of my first memories are from when I was four years old and my family lived in Canada for a year while my dad was on a Fulbright teacher exchange. We lived in a small town about 600 miles north of Toronto called Geraldton (translation: Freezeyourassoffville). While my memories are vague and sort of blurry, a couple of things stand out.
My brother and sister and I getting up very early to make breakfast for my parents (who likely heard us and pretended to stay asleep, bless them, while we danced around the coffee pot like crazed warriors shouting “It perked! It perked! It really really perked!” and then hid under the table so they could come out and be “surprised”).
The same brother and sister who told me that the hot chocolate my mom just poured us was nice and warm and I should take a big sip, which seared my throat so badly I’m pretty sure I couldn’t even scream. (Their punishment: drinking their hot chocolate while sitting on the kitchen floor. Hello, have you met children? They likely loved this).
Getting chicken pox and staying home with the next door neighbor and trying not to itch.
My dad coming home from an ice fishing trip with supposedly dead fish that came alive in the sink.
(For the record, these are not the same fish. My dad says they were Pike and they were two feet long. I imagine the look on my mom’s face was probably much different).
Getting some kind of freak flu that made me unable to use my legs for a day or two.
Having a babysitter come over one night and her pretending that everyone was going to bed, only to let Andy and Anne get up after I was asleep and play “Sorry” in the living room. (Hint: I wasn’t asleep. I heard you.)
Being popular in my pre-kindergarten class because I was American (did I make this up? Likely I did in later years when I just really wanted to be like “I was popular once. With some other kids…from Canada, you probably don’t know them.”)
Learning to tie my shoes.
It being so cold at one point that my mom wouldn’t let us play outside and everyone plugged in their cars.
Hiding the ping pong paddles in the basement so that we could never get spanked (sorry Dad, but we totally did that).
Having a laundry chute for the first time. This was like discovering radium or something to me, I couldn’t get over how cool it was and all the crap you could shove down it.
Anyway, the one thing that really sticks out in my mind was the day that my childhood began its journey into a slow, painful death. The day that Squishy Baby lost her head.
Squishy baby was my favorite doll. She had a very soft plastic body (hence “Squishy Baby”) and a hard plastic formed face, with a perfect cherub mouth. I loved her. At some point, I must have seen a commercial or something for dolls that you could feed with a bottle and would subsequently wet their diapers (because what kid DOESN’T want to change soiled diapers?)
I looked at Squishy Baby. She had a tiny hole in her mouth, just like the one on TV. Unfortunately I failed to check her nether regions to see if there was a hole connected to that for the pee to come OUT, because Squishy didn’t have one. (Years later I figured that hole in her mouth was to let air in and out, making her extra squishy). Naturally, I squeezed a bunch of water into her mouth and waited in rapt anticipation for the urine to appear so I could change the makeshift diaper I’d made out of kitchen towels and scotch tape (I don’t actually remember that but am taking a bit of nostalgic license here). When it didn’t come out I figured she was just thirsty after all that time without anything to drink, so I gave her more…and more…until her tummy was sloshing around like a sorority girl at her first Harry Buffalo party.
Finally I gave up, defeated (but apparently not concerned that I had poured a liter of water inside of my doll and it never came out) and found something else to do and promptly forgot. I assume the water evaporated eventually, but mostly what happened is that Squishy baby started to smell. I must have asked my mom why her breath was so foul and she wrangled out of me what had happened (for the record, I don’t remember this part, but I assume she was – rightly so- pretty irritated with me).
The only way to clean Squishy baby (I’m sure you know where this is going) was to take her head off and let her dry out. Maybe she got a baking soda bath, I don’t know. What I do remember is seeing my little doll sitting on the counter for several days, headless. It is an image seared into my memory, traumatizing me for life. For the record, Squishy baby survived to live another day. (And don’t even get me started on how many Barbies I accidentally decapitated and/or broke that little piece of plastic that holds their head precariously on their unrealistically long giraffe necks and my mom would have to shove their heads back on all the way down to their shoulders to get them to stay, making poor Day to Night Barbie look like she lost a few vertebrae in a football accident).
Apparently, though, Rachel is not one to be affected so mightily by the sight of her doll missing its head because Polly Pocket loses hers once a day. Don’t worry…I’m sure I’ll find other ways in which to unknowingly traumatize her. Maybe I should get one of those dolls that wets itself without rotting from the inside out, just to be on the safe side. Or maybe, I should really be on the lookout not to be traumatized by her, considering the surprise she left me in her baby sister’s cradle a few months ago.
Well played, Rachel. Well played.