Stories My Mother Told Me – The 500th Post


This post first appeared in May 2013 and was the second post I wrote for this blog. As this will be the 500th post on the blog I thought that it would be nice to update it and post it again.

When I was a little girl mum often used to tell me about her dolls. She always regretted that she had not been able to save any of them to give to my sister and me.

Mum as a child with her mother circa 1925.

Mum was born in 1921 so the dolls she had were very different to the ones that Naomi and I played with many years later.

The first doll she could remember having was given to her by her grandmother when she was three or four years old. Mum said that when she was nursing the doll a spider came out of its open mouth. She was so frightened that she dropped it and its china head broke. What a scary experience that must have been for a little girl!

 

Balljointed bisque head doll.jpg
By Mabalu – I (Mabalu (talk)) created this work entirely by myself., CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Above is a German bisque doll from around 1920 perhaps mum was given something like this.

Our grandfather was in the British army and when mum was four  years old the family went abroad. Over the next eight years they lived in Jersey, Malta, Egypt and India before returning to England when she was twelve.

During that time she had several dolls which she loved and learned to make clothes for. One of them had a wax face and unfortunately although mum was careful with her dolls this one melted in the hot Indian sun.

Valerie was the name of mum’s last doll and I believe she may have been a  doll with a china or composition head. Valerie may have been a double jointed doll as mum often spoke of having one but I can’t remember if this was Valerie or her waxen faced predecessor. When mum got Valerie she was about fourteen and she knew that this would be the last doll she would be given so she wanted to save her for her own children. However Valerie also suffered a sad fate. She had been left sitting by an open window in the bedroom and if I remember the story correctly a cat knocked her off the sill and she fell to the ground and was smashed.

Compositon Shirley Temple doll by Ideal c 1930s.
composition Shirley Temple doll by Ideal c 1930s.

Mum never mentioned having owned a Shirley Temple doll but our Shirley would be contemporary with mum’s last doll Valerie.

While mum was alive I always hoped that I might find another doll from the 1920s or 30s to give her to remind her of her childhood companions but I was unable to find one I could afford. One day I hope that a vintage baby will join my doll family. Perhaps I will call her Valerie, or maybe Carol after mum.

Even though I never saw the dolls themselves mum and I shared many happy times talking about them and I am sure that is the reason that she gave us dolls and encouraged us to keep them safe.

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14 comments

  1. I know just how she felt. The memory of what happened to Baby Cocoa lives on. I think Mum would have been a bit upset that Baby Cocoa’s head got smashed in too.

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  2. What an absolutely lovely story! Thank you so much for reposting. My mother never talked about dolls or seemed to have an interest in them but my grandmother, who was born in 1903, had some of her old dolls, including a beautiful doll with a bisque head. She also had a tiny porcelain headed doll with a soft body, stuffed with sawdust. I still have that doll and she is desperately in need of some new clothes. I’m always keeping an eye out for something suitable. She’s wearing a little “slip” that went under the dress, both made by my grandmother. She may have been a “vintage” doll even in my grandmother’s day. My grandmother gave me my first doll, called Floppy Flo and I dragged her around until she disintegrated – she was a rag doll. But when I was five, she gave me a Raggedy Ann, which I still have. She’s been chewed by dogs and had so many disasters and I’ve patched her up and patched up over and again. Later, my aunt who lived in Paris and Brussels began bringing dolls from Europe home at Christmas for us, dressed in their national costumes. I still have three of them. It’s so nice to share this love of dolls with like-minded people.

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  3. Wow such stirring family stories, My dolls came late to me one sister insisted that as a child I persisted in asking her to sew me a doll, and when I was sixteen she was finally able to manage it. Now I have three dolls from sisters. My mom was too busy with 8 kids to make dolls but my granny crocheted dresses for the small sleep eye ones I saw in her bathroom. I started collecting in earnest when I finally had a home to put them in, and my daughter ditched most of hers upon moving out. I too lost a favorite when one of our kids cats knocked over a lovely French faced jointed doll. I am still searching for a new head and torso. I love character dolls from t.v. and movies and even some favorite books or fairy tales/rhymes. This blog has been so helpful in common sense tips on identification/links etc..etc.. Thanks loads!

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