Monday, September 26, 2016

Elsa's Story: Chapter 3 (Disney Frozen Birthday Party Elsa by Mattel)

My little brother Christian had a bit of a disappointment since I last posted. We were playing hide and seek again. I was hiding behind a bedpost, but was peeking out every now and then so I could check on Christian's progress. Christian was getting closer, and there was a very determined look on his freckled face. Sven followed close behind. Christian had already found him.

Christian was just passing the bureau, but he must've heard a noise because he stopped suddenly and turned his head. "Elsa?" he asked as he stared into the shadows between the bureau and the wall. Sven moved forward, poked his nose into the shadows and sniffed. I immediately went into 'big sister mode'. If there was someone, or something, hiding in the shadows I didn't want Christian and Sven to face it alone.

"Christian, wait!" I called as I left my hiding place and hurried over to join him and Sven. Christian turned when he heard my voice. "Elsa?" he asked when he saw me. "But if you were over there, who's over here?"

I reached Christian's side and tried to peer into the shadows. I had to stare over the top of Sven's head, since he was still trying to shove his nose into the gap between the bureau and the wall. I was worried that Sven would get stuck, and was about to try and coax him back when I heard a faint whimper coming from the shadows. Whoever had made the noise sounded frightened, and that had me worried. I knew the most common reactions to fear are running away or lashing out. And being the protective big sister I am, I was worried that whoever was in the shadows would feel threatened and end up hurting Sven or Christian. So I tried to calm down whoever it was.

"It's alright, we won't hurt you," I said in a reassuring tone. Then I rested my hand on Sven's neck. "Sven, come on now, get out of there," I said. Sven took one more sniff before letting me direct him away from the gap. I kept my hand on Sven's neck, to hold him back if necessary and said, "You can come out now, it's alright."

Slowly, a little girl doll stepped out of the shadows. Her blond hair was arranged in a single braid, and her eyes were wide with apprehension. Her dress was teal and lilac with sheer sleeves, and the skirt was covered with netting and glitter. She reminded me a little of Christian, in terms of height and scale. 

The moment Christian saw her, her rushed forward. "Elsie!" Christian shouted as he threw his arms around her and hugged her. When Christian let go, words started tumbling out of his mouth. "You got your dress back. Treesa saved it. Is Annie here too?"

The little girl doll took one look at Christian, her eyes still wide, and burst into tears. Dolls can't shed actual tears, but they can cry. And this little girl doll was wailing. I moved away from Sven and hurried over. "It's alright. It's ok," I said, trying to comfort her. Christian looked hurt. "What's wrong?" he asked. The little girl doll's chin quivered as she said, "You were mean to me and Little Anna before! You pulled our braids and said we had girl cooties! And Little Sven chased us all the time! Just go away!"

At first Christian didn't understand. I guessed what had happened before the little girl doll even stopped talking, but only because I knew Christian and Sven well enough to know they would never hurt anyone. Christian is too well mannered to even think about pulling another doll's hair. And while Sven can be overly playful at times, he would never deliberately scare anyone.

I turned to Christian, to explain to him what I thought had happened. But then I saw his expression change when he realized the truth. "You're not Elsie," he said, his voice heavy with disappointment. "You just look like her."

Just then Treesa appeared. "Nora, what are you doing over here?" Treesa asked. The little girl doll, Nora, sniffled and said, "I got lost." Treesa leaned towards Nora, then she noticed me and Christian and Sven. "I see you met Elsa's family," Treesa said. She sounded a little nervous. I think she was worried how Nora and Christian would react to seeing each other for the first time. From what I had already seen and heard, it was something that Treesa had good reason to be concerned about.

Nora quickly confirmed Treesa's fears. "You never said Little Kristoff was here!" Nora said. "You said dolls here are nice!" Treesa knelt down on the bedroom carpet, most likely so she would be closer to Nora's eye level. The Treesa said, "Nora, I know this is hard to understand, but Christian isn't the Little Kristoff doll you knew before. When factories make dolls, they make a lot of the same doll, so that lots of people can have one. There are a lot of dolls that look like Little Kristoff, but not all of them are mean."

Nora still seemed nervous, so Treesa tried to reassure her again. "This is Christian," Treesa said, gesturing in Christian's direction. "He was called Kris at his old home. And this is his big sister Elsa. Elsa, Christian, this is Elsinore. I call her Nora for short. Her first owner called her Little Elsa."

I took a small step closer and said, "It's nice to meet you Nora." Nora still seemed a little afraid, but she didn't back away. Treesa turned to Christian. "Aren't you going to say hello, Christian?" Treesa asked. I don't think Christian had gotten over his disappointment yet, but he politely said, "Hello." Then he said, "I'm sorry I scared you."

"Scared her?" Treesa asked, understandably confused.

"Christian thought that Nora was his old friend Elsie." I explained. Treesa quickly apologized. "I'm sorry Christian," she said. "I was going to tell you and Elsa that Nora was here. But I just got her and I didn't expect her to wander off."

Nora looked like she might start crying again. "I'm sorry!" she said. Treesa noticed how upset Nora was and said, "It's ok Nora. It's not your fault. I'm not mad at you." Treesa gave Nora a reassuring smile, then said, "I know, how about I take you to meet some of my other Disney doll families. Would you like that? I'll be with you the whole time if you get scared." Nora sniffled again, then nodded. Treesa reached down and gently picked her up. Then Treesa carried Nora to another part of the room.

Christian and Sven and I didn't see much of Nora after that. At least, not until Petite Merida came. But that's a story for another day. This post has been in draft form for too long already, because it was so emotionally difficult to write. I kept seeing Nora's scared little face in my mind, or remembering how Christian felt when he realized that Nora wasn't Elsie. But these things have a way of working themselves out, one way or another. And while Nora and Christian still act uncertain around each other, things have gotten better. Having Merida in the house brought its' own challenges, but I'll save that story for another post. Until then, I wish you the best.

Love From Elsa

Friday, September 2, 2016

Sue's Story (redressed Pink Ribbon Barbie)


Fashion dolls, all toys really, are supposed to be flexible. And when I say flexible, I don't mean articulated. What I mean is that they should be able to adapt to changing situations. Playline dolls often end up playing different roles, becoming whatever their owner imagines, at least until playtime's over.

Collector dolls, on the other hand, aren't manufactured to be played with by children. They're produced for adults, with the expectation that they'll be left in their boxes or kept on display. Because of this, collector dolls tend to think differently than playline dolls. Where most playline dolls want to be played with, most collector dolls want to be left in peace, at least in the beginning. It's harder for collector dolls to feel lonely or bored because most of them are molded to enjoy solitude. Otherwise, those dolls left in their boxes or locked in glass cases would all lose their minds.

Geena already explained some of this in her post. The reason I'm mentioning it again is because I want all of you to understand why I have difficulty with change. I'm a collector doll, and like Geena I left the factory thinking that the life stretching out in front of me would unfold in a straight line. But I was about to reach a bend in the road. However, the path my life would take was slightly different from the one Geena experienced.

My first owner was an adult collector. She was what's known in collecting jargon as a 'deboxer'. Not only did she take her dolls out of their boxes, she apparently liked to redress and restyle them. After releasing me from my box, she left me lying on he desk for a few moments while she went to get something. My box had been left on the desk next to me, on its' side. That's when I first noticed that the words Susan G. Komen Foundation were printed on the front. 'Susan, that's a pretty name,' I thought. Then my owner came back, with another doll in her hand. The truth was, she had only bought me for my clothes. She stripped off my pale pink gown, carefully removing the small pink ribbon that was attached to the bodice. My long, satiny gloves came off next. I couldn't turn away, since that would have required moving in front of a human. So I was forced to watch as she dressed the other doll in my clothes. All I had left when she was finished was my sparkly tulle stole, which she tied around my neck like a scarf before she stuck me back in my box, shoved me into a closet and forgot about me.

For a long time I just stayed there in the dark closet, alone. Being alone didn't bother me as much, at first. It was quiet and peaceful in the closet. But the darkness could be unnerving. However, the thought of having to see anyone in my current state was even more upsetting. I knew how embarrassed and ashamed I would feel if another doll found me like this, wearing nothing but my stole. Some days I was so mortified from imagining it that I actually hoped I would never be found.

Not only that, but without my clothing I felt like I had lost my identity. Before then I'd known exactly who I was. I was Pink Ribbon Barbie. But because my owner had taken away my gown, with its' pink ribbon, I didn't feel I could call myself Pink Ribbon Barbie anymore. But if I wasn't Pink Ribbon Barbie, then who was I? This question kept surfacing in my mind, until one day I decided to give myself a new identity. I called myself Susan, inspired by the name that had been printed on my box. I began thinking about other ways to define myself, besides by what I wore. I started with the obvious things. I had blond hair. My eyes were blue. Then I started thinking about more abstract things: my likes and dislikes, my hopes, my dreams, what I would do if I ever did leave this closet.

Eventually, my first owner found me again. She must have been doing some spring cleaning. She pulled out my box, then looked at me for a moment. Years had passed, and the box was coated with a thin layer of dust. Not only that, but dust particles had even found their way into the box. My owner tossed me, box and all, into a cardboard carton with a bunch of odds and ends. The carton was put in the trunk of her car, then dropped off at a donation center. That was how I ended up at the thrift store. There, my dusty box was thrown away and I was put in a plastic bag.

Treesa couldn't identify me by sight, but she knew enough about Barbie dolls to recognize that I was a collector doll. After she bought me and brought me home she pulled out a large reference book on Barbie collector dolls. By comparing my facepaint, my updo hairstyle and my stole to photographs in the book, Treesa was able to identify me.

Treesa wiped away the dust and pieced together an outfit for me. She let me keep my stole as part of my new ensemble. Then she left me in her room to meet her other dolls. After spending so much time alone in a closet I wasn't prepared for the chaotic scene that followed, as more and more dolls seemed to materialize out of the woodwork to welcome me. But I was greeted warmly, which did a lot to calm my nerves.

By the time Treesa came back to the room, later that evening, I had learned from the other dolls that Treesa knew we were alive. When she saw me, Treesa smiled and said, "You're going to need a name."

"I have a name," I said quickly. Treesa looked slightly surprised. I don't know if it was the fact that I already had a name that surprised her, or if she was surprised that I was willing to talk to her so soon after she brought me home. Not speaking in front of humans is a deeply ingrained behavior for dolls, and I later learned that it often took time for a new doll to trust Treesa enough to actually respond to her.

Treesa's surprise carried over into her voice as she said, "Oh, really?"

"Yes," I told her firmly. Treesa said, "Oh, ok. What is it?"

"Susan," I answered. Treesa frowned. "I already have a doll named Suzanne," she said. "Having another doll named Susan would just get confusing. We'll have to think of something else for you."

"My name is Susan," I said, getting upset. "It was printed on my box: The Susan G. Komen Foundation. Why do I have to change my name? And why doesn't Suzanne have to change hers?"

"Suzanne was my first Barbie doll," Treesa said, also sounding upset. "I've had her since I was a kid! She has a husband, and kids. I'm not going to ask her to change her name now!"

At the time I felt that Treesa was being unreasonable. After all, did it really matter if two of her dolls had similar names? Would it really cause that much confusion? However, looking back now, I think I was being equally unreasonable. It shouldn't have mattered so much what Treesa called me. I should have been secure enough in my identity to know who I was without having to have a particular name. But that wasn't how I felt. Because I'd chosen the name Susan myself, I felt as though my stole and my name were the only things I had left that were really mine. I felt as though Treesa was trying to rip away everything that made

"How about we compromise," Treesa suggested. "Would it be ok if we shortened your name to Sue?" I thought it over. If my name was just shortened, instead of changed, then maybe it would be easier for me to cope with. Also, Treesa obviously respected me enough to try and work with me. Respecting her in return by meeting her halfway was probably the right thing to do. "Alright," I said finally.

Adjusting to life in Treesa's collection was a challenge for me. My social skills had definitely suffered from the time I'd spent in isolation, and I hadn't had much of an opportunity to use them before my confinement either. Not only that, but I still had the mentality of a collector doll. Collector dolls are most comfortable when they're in a stable environment. They like things to stay the same, and if circumstances change too quickly or too drastically it can sometimes be frightening for them. My life had changed to a degree where everything I'd become accustomed to, everything that had anchored me, was gone. It was as though after spending my life in the darkness of a closet, the sunlight seemed almost too bright, too blinding. My constant solitude had been replaced by the near constant presence of others. I felt overwhelmed, confused, lost.

I think that may be why I bonded so quickly with Geena. Geena knew how it felt to be faced with something that completely changed the course of your life. Twice she had had to reevaluate her place in the world, once when she was given to a child to play with after being designed as an adult collectable, and once when she had had to adjust to a new home after Treesa bought her second-hand. I'm grateful that Geena chose to share her experiences with me. Though we've never discussed it, Geena's words and actions have been like those of a sister, and I've learned a lot from her. I've learned that it's ok to be afraid of change, as long as you don't let that fear control your life. I've learned that any change can be an opportunity for a new beginning, and that having to start over can be a good thing. But the most important thing that Geena did for me was make me believe that feeling overwhelmed, and even afraid, in this situation was normal. People, and dolls, fear the unknown, and the future is one of those great unknowns. No matter how much planning and preparation you do ahead of time, you never really know what will happen tomorrow.

Sue and Geena

Geena said that she wrote her post for Treesa's blog in an attempt to deal with some of her unresolved fears. She said that while it wasn't a miracle cure, it was helpful. So I've followed Geena's example and am posting my story here. Hopefully, I will be able to adjust to my new life as well as Geena has. Only time will tell.

A Doll Named Sue