I’m not sure exactly when I first got my Tiny Tears doll, but it was before I started school when I was five. That little doll and I became inseparable. I literally dragged her everywhere I went as though she was a real baby. I called my doll, Jeannie. She had a tuft of brown curly hair just like a real infant might have. Best of all there was a tiny hole in her mouth through which I was able to feed her bottles of water. Of course, she would eventually need a diaper change from drinking the liquid, so it felt as though she was a real baby.
I’m not certain what eventually happened to Jeannie, but after all the loving I had given her, she began to grow weak. First, her hair came unglued from her head, and my brother joked that she looked as though she had removed the coon skin cap that had once graced her head. I did not take too kindly to his irreverent commentary even though in retrospect it was somewhat funny. Her limbs were made of rubber and at some point a couple of her fingers fell from her hand. My mother suggested that Jeannie’s time with us was over, and one day when I came home from school, she was gone.
My mother tried her best to substitute other dolls for Jeannie, but none of them were as wonderful as that Tiny Tears doll had been, so I grieved for her. She had been my “lovey,” a comforting presence much like stuffed animals are for some children. I can still remember dreaming the night away with her slumbering peacefully beside me.
Many years passed, and my mother found another Tiny Tears doll at an antique store. She gave it to me as a surprise on my birthday. I was an adult by then so I was not going to play with the doll, but it touched my heart that my mom remembered how much Jeannie had meant to me. I kept the new doll perched on my dresser more as a kind of reminder of Jeannie and my mother’s thoughtfulness rather than a prized object.
Over time even the new Tiny Tears doll began to deteriorate. Her rubber skin became sticky, and much like Jeannie pieces of her fingers broke off. I had to move her to my closet lest she damage my furniture. When I would see her on the shelf she looked so forlorn, as though time had taken its toll on her. I kept her until after my mother died, and then I guiltily tossed her into the trash. By then just touching her caused cracks in her limbs, and she stuck to everything.
The only stuffed animal that I ever enjoyed was a great big teddy bear from my Uncle Andrew. He was hardly a cuddly creature. Instead, I used him to have bear fights with my brothers. We had many a jolly row with our three bears. We’d take those critters by the legs and pound each other over the head. it was great fun that brought lots of laughs from all of us.
According to my mother I was never attached to a favorite blanket either, only Jeannie. although I have come to see all objects as expendable, I do still think of Jeannie and wish she had held up so that I might show her to my daughters and granddaughter. I can’t explain why she brought me so much joy, but she did.
I would have many dolls that were much more beautiful than Jeannie, and while I liked them, they never held a candle to her. it’s funny how we attach ourselves to certain things, often for no real reason. Perhaps I was just at the age when I was transitioning from toddler to young child, and Jeannie was my companion in that phase of life. I was reaching the time when I would begin venturing away from my parents for many hours at a time rather than being tied to them all day long. Jeannie made it easier to do those sometimes frightening things.
I hear many different tales of special stuffed animals or toys that people loved as children. For one of my daughters it was a yellow blanket that became frayed and filled with holes before she was finally willing to leave it in a corner and never look back again. She gave it up for a little stuffed dog called Le Mutt that she has to this very day. The story of Le Mutt is the story of her childhood, including friendships, vacation trips, and illnesses. My eldest daughter had a teddy bear, but like me with Jeannie, she gave him away when his seams began to come apart and his fur became bare.
Our “loveys” are wonderful, at least I know mine was. All I have are memories now, and that is more than enough. Sometimes I can go into my mind and see Jeannie in all her glory keeping me company and entertaining me for hours. She was not real but, for a time, she was my friend.