children, parenthood

For the Love of a Doll


I cuddled the tiny little doll in my arms, swaying back and forth.

She was perfect… beautiful.

My cousin had drawn my name in Christmas gift exchange, but I suspect that it was my Aunt Linda who had in fact chosen the lovely little treasure in my arms.

I was ecstatic.

Some feelings cannot be expressed in words.

My aunt must have understood that as she looked down at me as I was caressing the beautiful golden curls of my Christmas gift.

I named her Sally.

She was my precious little treasure. She was like a real baby.

Her little bottle could be filled with water and she would actually drink it. Then her soiled diaper could be changed.

I felt like I was a real Mommy. It was as if  my greatest dreams had come true.

I packed Sally with me to everywhere. I brushed her hair and changed her clothes. I even took her into the bath with me, then wrapped her in my baby blanket and tucked her into bed with me to sleep.

She was my special show-and-tell in Kindergarten. Much to my dismay, Teacher said I could not keep her in the classroom unless she had my name on her.

And she handed me a permanent marker.

I wrote my name “SaRAh A.” with a backwards “R” on her forehead, the only place I could find that didn’t have clothes covering her, since I also wasn’t permitted to undress her in the classroom.

I was very angry at the teacher that she had forced me to ruin my beautiful little baby. I came to greatly dislike that teacher.

I tried everything later to get the permanent marker off, but to no avail.

She was ruined.

I cried, but finally had to accept that I could not change it. And I accepted her the way she was; I still loved her in spite of what had happened to her.

When I was six I decided to wash her hair when I was bathing.

It was disastrous.

Apparently her hair was not intended to be washed. All the beautiful tight little curls unfurled and stood on end like a stiff afro.

Again I cried.

But I could not undo it. By this time I had come to grips with the fact that my doll was not perfect, but she was still my doll. I tried to make up for her hair by tying it in pointy pony tails, or covering it with a bandanna.

When I was nine, Momma taught me to sew. I took Sally’s little white baby dress which I thought looked like a wedding dress and sewed a little white pearl button onto it’s front. I thought it was a great improvement.

I don’t remember if I had other dolls growing up or not. If I did, they didn’t leave an impression: Sally is the only one I remember.

As I grew older, Sally moved from my bed with me to a little cubby hole at the front of my bunk bed. Wrapped in my baby blanket, I knew she was safe there.

And when I needed a good cry, as all teen girls do, I would pull out my baby Sally and my blanket and hold them tight.

When I was sixteen I received a Hope Chest for Christmas. Soon Sally was lovingly tucked away to wait another little girl who would, someday, love her as her own while she dreamed of becoming a mommy.

That day has not come. I only have boys, who in classic boy fashion, think she is very funny looking.

But once, when he thought I wasn’t looking, I saw one of them lovingly caressing her hair and rocking her to sleep.  

Today she isn’t far from me: I keep her in my top dresser drawer. And on a hard day she can still make me smile.

And remember.

Remember that this –motherhood– is what I dreamed about all those years ago.


Sarah Forbes

(From an article written in 2011)



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