She lay there on the grate of the old Franklin stove: Arms crossed, a silk flower on her chest. Flames began to lick the ends of her cotton yarn hair like a thousand fuses lit at once. The top of her head was strangely flat, because I had, of course, removed part of her brain.
It was an essential pre-crematory surgery: A small cut was deftly made above the hairline, the stuffing carefully removed and then quickly inserted into the new, awaiting doll. “The personality must not be lost,” I said gravely to my four-year-old sister and eight-year-old brother, who looked upon the scene with both horror and reverence.
She had been no ordinary doll. Mom made her for me when I was six years old from the traditional Raggedy Ann pattern, but with yellow hair. I christened her “Tabalina Darla Christopher,” the most beautiful name I could think of. This was after announcing that I would like my name changed to “Campbellina.” She was my childhood therapist. I acted out all my frustrations through her as my alter-ego. She put on shows for my siblings as I changed her facial expressions by pressing or pulling on the material between her eyes and making her talk. I made her talk with a voice like a child chain-smoker. But now four years later, there was no repair possible for the gaping hole between her eyes. A band-aid was temporarily successful, until quite persistently pieces of stuffing – no! her brain itself! – kept working their way out.
The only solution was a Frankenstein-like operation. A new doll was made, but lay lifeless until the brain of the old could be placed inside.
This scenario would have to be repeated a few years later, as Tabby Number 2 met the same fate. Number 3 is in my attic right now, lying “in state” as it were, a 24 inch Mao or Stalin under a frame of glass. I think at 43 I am past the drama of another funeral pyre and no new doll has been made. I’m sure everyone is happy about that and relieved that I never went on to pursue medicine as a career.