Years ago I loved to browse in the shops along the Savannah waterfront while Charles was in veterinary meetings. On one such occasion I strolled into an antique store just to look at the treasures people had let go. I was intrigued by the exciting smells of furniture wax, a burning candle, and mysteries galore. Right away I spotted her, a beautiful golden-haired doll dressed in green velvet wearing a hat to match sitting all alone on a marble topped dresser. Had she been abandoned by some little girl who outgrew dolls?
Now I’m not the doll lover my sister has always been. Mamma used to tell me to play dolls with Suzanne when what I wanted to do was read a book. I did have some dolls. One of them I named Mary. Instead of cuddling her or dressing and undressing her in different outfits I used her for a ball and tried to see how high I could throw her and then catch her. Sometimes I didn’t catch her which wasn’t too good for her. Somehow, over the years, I lost track of Mary. I don’t think she survived.
Yet here I was a grown woman with grandchildren at home struck by that blonde doll, almost as if I’d known her somewhere else. Maybe she was the doll I’d always secretly wanted–golden curls, blue eyes, and that green dress. I picked her up, and her piquant face took on life right before my eyes. I walked around the store holding her as if I were going to buy her, then carefully set her back on the dresser where I’d found her. She seemed to follow me with her sweet gaze as I left the store.
I explored a candle maker’s shop and bought a bite of caramel fudge at the candy store, strolled down by the river to see the statue of “The Waving Girl,” then meandered back toward our hotel. Suddenly I found myself right in front of that same antique store. Should I at least go in and see her again?
When I walked in the store I saw her smile as if to say “Please, don’t you want me?” I promptly bought her and named her Savannah as I walked back to the hotel.
Savannah has been part of our household ever since. Some children who had seen the movie “Dolls” were afraid of her at first and pretty much avoided her. In fact, when they spent the night, they didn’t want her in the room with them. But gradually they warmed to her and now she’s become quite the social lady. She sits in my office most of the time with that serene, happy look on her face. But we think she likes it best when there’s a tea party. She’s always invited and usually is in the middle of everything. The kids drag out the tiny tea set, and make sandwiches the size of a butterbean just for Savannah, then argue about who actually gets to eat them.
I smile when I find Savannah sitting askew on the daybed with her hat dropped on the floor. I know she’s been having a really good time. Maybe she’s just a doll. She has no ability to be sad or truly happy. But in the imaginations of a grandmother with her grandchildren Savannah has become a character with feelings and aspirations. Like a puppet or a mask, she helps us create fun and healthy drama.
I think about Savannah sitting in that antique store so lonely with no little girl hands to tinker with her hair and no one to care whether or not her hat was straight, no opportunity to lose her little black shoes, and certainly no chance to cause giggles and conversation over tiny cups of hot tea. I’m really glad I found Savannah that day on the waterfront and rescued her from a life of boredom. If she could talk, I’m sure she’d say she’s glad too. It was relatively peaceful and safe in that store. But I think she loves the helter-skelter of a household of children so much better.