counting down my favorite gifts...
Let's get something straight. I hate stuffed animals. Don't give them to me. Those that give, know: the first thing I did when you left was funnel them into a plastic bag bound for the homeless shelter.
I think I've always had this aversion, though I had my collection of Care Bears, my Little Ponies, the ones with no name. I remember lining up all my dolls and marring them, slicing off their hair, scribbling markers over their eyes and mouth. They're her dolls, I heard my mother whisper to my father, the way she would say about everything. It's her hair. Let her ruin it. Let her flush her trolls down the toilet to watch them drown.
But then came Cabbage Patch kids. Everyone wanted one. I lived in Georgia, close to where Xavier Roberts hatched his demon doll scheme. I even visited the Cabbage Patch General Hospital (yes, there was such a thing), and even I couldn't get one. But my uncle did, sneaked one out from Kmart, where he worked, the only one left in the store that Christmas. I was five or six. Don't expect it, my parents said. Santa couldn't. But they lied.
My Cabbage Patch doll's name was Tracy-I kept it. She had shocking red pigtails-it was still yarn then-and wore a dress and matching pantaloons of red and white gingham. I lost her shoes.
Maybe because I knew it was the kill-for toy, I would have killed for her. She went down the slide with me, she sat on the swing. At night, I planned escapes from the house, from fire or tornado. Step A was grab Tracy. She slept with me until I was in junior high. This had its toll: her cloth limbs are black with dirt. Her plastic face is scratched. The elastic from her dress is sagging. One of my first experiences with mortification was when my grandmother pulled down my doll's pants to show her friends the Cabbage Patch emblem: Xavier Robert's signature scrawled across her cloth doll ass.
I never let my mother wash her. I was afraid she would drown.
Through all my moves-Georgia to New York, to Ohio, to Maryland, to Virginia, to Michigan, to Pennsylvania, Tracy came too, my totem, my familiar, though, as an adult, I never knew what to do with her. Put her on a high shelf? Or in a box? Or in a plastic case? I knew a man loved me when, on a move, he seat-belted her into the passenger seat. What was she but a reminder of when I believed I could fly? The years I might not have a memory for, I had a witness.
I didn't take her to California. I'm too afraid anything that comes with me is not coming back. There's a line of fire somewhere in Missouri.
Now the childhood me is in a closet box in my parents' house in Ohio, resting on a pile of love letters written to the adult me. She's my pit bull. She's my minotaur. You have to go through her to get to me. Ah, this girl became this woman, you would say. Look what you did to her. Look what she was. You don't think of that, did you, but oh yes, oh yes, all of us are someone's daughters.