Is it possible for a doll to have an identity crisis? Ever since I came to live with Treesa I've been trying to find out who I am. I know for sure what I'm not. I'm not a vintage Barbie doll, despite my manufacturer's efforts to make me look like one.
My arms are soft and rubbery, with stubby fingers. Real vintage Barbie dolls have longer, more slender fingers. The rest of my body is made from a harder plastic, but I don't have the weight of a vintage Barbie doll. I'm more like a Mary Make-Up doll, as far as body weight and material goes. Then there's my head. Treesa said whoever designed my face paint must've been copying the very first Barbie dolls, because my eyes are black and white. And near the top of my head, in the back under my hair, there's a hole left behind from the molding process.
The only markings I have are the letter U on the back of my head, near my neck. Treesa thought this meant I was made by a company called Uneeda. But when Treesa checked the reference books she has about dolls from that time period she found out that, if I was a Uneeda doll, I would have different head markings, and I would also be marked on my back. The picture in one of the books of Uneeda's Barbie clone doll, Suzette, also looks a lot different from me. In fact, none of the Barbie clone dolls shown in the books look exactly like me. But then, there really aren't a lot of Barbie clone dolls pictured in the books. These books mostly show dolls that were molded to look like babies and children, not 11 1/2 inch fashion dolls. And the fashion dolls that are pictured were all made by the larger, more well-known toy companies from that time. Treesa told me a lot of smaller companies were also trying to cash in on Barbie's success by making clone dolls. So I guess finding out what my factory name was might as well be impossible. But Treesa tried. I'd still really like to find out someday, and I think Treesa is just as curious as I am.
But it's not just my factory name I don't know. I'm not sure why, but I can't remember anything about my past. Maybe it's because of my age. After all, humans sometimes have memory problems when they get older. But Treesa's other vintage dolls I've met still remember things about their old lives. My friend Mary, a Mary Make-Up doll who used to belong to Treesa's aunt, thinks that maybe I went into hibernation for too long. I'm wondering if my memory loss has something to do with the hole in my head. Maybe memories just leak out over time. But whatever caused it, the oldest memory I have is from the day Treesa found me.
I think Mary's right, and I must've been in hibernation, because I remember slowly waking up. Something, or someone, was touching me very gently, and that started easing me awake. Dolls with painted eyes sleep with their eyes open, so I couldn't see anything at first because I hadn't fully woken up yet. However, right after my eyes cleared, I was temporarily blinded by bright sunlight. Before my eyes could adjust, I felt myself being lifted up. I was disoriented, and a little afraid. But then my vision started to focus, and I saw Treesa for the first time.
She was holding me in her hands, and she seemed to be looking me over very carefully. Even though I didn't really understand where I was or what was going on, when I looked back at Treesa, I saw something in her eyes that made me feel safe. I can't really explain it, but it was like I could somehow tell that Treesa saw value in me. Then Treesa held me up in front of a white haired lady and asked how much I was. The lady said a dollar. Treesa gave her the money, and I was put in a plastic shopping bag. I was quickly joined by another doll, who I later found out was a reproduction Solo In The Spotlight Barbie. As Treesa was walking away with the bag hanging from her arm, I heard a man's voice ask, "The first doll was vintage wasn't it?"
"She's a vintage clone doll," Treesa told him. "She's old, but she wasn't made by Mattel."
"Then why did you buy her?" the man asked.
"Because she's well made for a clone doll," Treesa said. I later found out the man was Treesa's father.
Even though I was awake now, I still felt a little groggy and disoriented. It felt like my head was stuffed with cotton. I could hear Treesa and her father talking, but I didn't fully realize they were talking about me. However, I wasn't the only one listening.
"You're a vintage doll?" the other doll in the bag asked, whispering so no humans would hear her.
"Hmm?" I murmured, still trying to clear the fuzziness from my head.
"I've never met a vintage doll before," the other doll continued. "I'm only a reproduction. You must have seen a lot of changes in the world in all that time."
I could tell from the way the other doll spoke that she was in awe, thinking about everything I must've experienced in my life. Then she asked, shyly, "What was it like, when you were new?"
I didn't really know what to say then, but I thought it would be rude not to answer the question. So I searched my mind, trying to find a memory I could share with her. As I tried to organize my thoughts, the dense, foggy feeling in my head started to ease, replaced by a clearer, more airy feeling. But no memories from my past surfaced. My head was just, empty, and that scared me. "I, I can't," I started to say. But the other doll must've realized how upset I was, because she started talking again before I could finish.
"It's alright," she said. "You don't have to tell me if it's too painful for you. I didn't stop to think that it might be difficult to talk about."
I think the other doll would've understood if I hadn't said anything else to her after that, even though she'd completely misunderstood the reason for my reaction. But I felt too anxious to keep quiet.
"I can't, remember," I said. And the more I thought about it, the more it scared me. Even though it was a warm day, I started to shiver. I felt a tightness in my chest, like I wasn't getting enough air, even though dolls don't actually need to breathe to live. And although most dolls other than Raggedy Ann don't have physical hearts, I felt my pulse racing, like the beat of a hummingbird's wings. When I told Treesa about it much later, she said it sounded like I'd had a panic attack.
"I can't remember anything," I whimpered. It wasn't until after I'd said that that I realized just how true it was. Not only could I not remember my past, I didn't even know who I was!
The other doll looked overwhelmed, like she had no idea what to do in this situation. "Just calm down," she told me. "Maybe I can help. What's the last thing you remember?"
I tried to concentrate, but only one memory appeared in my mind. "Her face," I said, "right before she put me in here."
"The human?" the other doll asked. "The one carrying us?" She sounded surprised.
"Human?" I repeated. For a split second, the word meant nothing to me. Then something clicked in my thoughts. "That's right, she was human," I said. Something else clicked in my mind and I added, "and we're dolls!"
I felt like I'd just had a breakthrough. I still didn't know who I was, but at least now I knew what I was. And if I could remember that much, then maybe the rest of my memories would come back to me in time. Now that I realized there was a chance my memory loss might not be permanent, I felt not just relieved, but hopeful. My spirits rose, and I felt myself smiling for the first time since I'd woken up.
The other doll stared at me as if she thought I'd lost my mind. "What about before that?" she asked hesitantly. I tried concentrating even harder, half expecting a memory to surface. But my head stayed empty. "There's nothing before that," I told her, disappointed.
By now Treesa was carrying us into what I later found out was her father's van. The two of us kept quiet as we rode back to where Treesa lived with her family. In a crowded, noisy place like an open air flea market, it's a lot easier for small sounds like doll whispers to go unnoticed. But a car is more enclosed, and we didn't want to risk being overheard. Neither one of us realized that this was the last time we'd see each other. Treesa and her father had bought the reproduction doll as a gift for Treesa's mother, and Treesa's mother kept her childhood fashion dolls and her small collection of more modern Barbie dolls in storage boxes in the master bedroom closet.
Just to be clear, Treesa didn't know that dolls are alive at this point in her life. I'm mentioning this because what happened next could easily make you believe she was already in on the secret. After Treesa's mother thanked her for the Solo In The Spotlight doll, Treesa took me into the bathroom. "Let's get you cleaned up and out of those Baywatch Barbie shorts," Treesa said. That's when I realized that the only thing I was wearing was a pair of red shorts. Treesa washed me carefully, and just as carefully combed out my hair. When I was dry, she looked in her box of vintage doll clothes and found a dress for me to wear.
The dress is simple, but pretty, with shoulder straps and a gathered skirt. It's made from white fabric with a pink flower print. Treesa thought the pink flowers matched well with my lip paint. Even with my murky past still hanging over my head, I felt much better now that I was tided up and dressed in something decent. The time Treesa put into cleaning and dressing me made me feel like I mattered to her, like she saw something worthwhile in me.
After I was dressed, Treesa put me with her other vintage dolls. She didn't have very many of them then. Besides Mary, there was only Summer Sand and Skye and their son KC. Summer welcomed me in a tired sounding voice. KC was sleeping in her arms. As for Skye, he seemed, distant I guess. But what I remember most about that day was meeting Mary for the first time.
Chloe and Mary
It was a little surreal at first, since we both noticed right away that we were wearing the exact same dress. The only difference was that Mary's dress had blue flowers and my dress had pink flowers. The style and even the print were identical. Once the shock wore off and we started trying to talk to each other, I couldn't help feeling like my memory loss put me at a big disadvantage. From my point of view, Mary seemed to remember everything about her past, while I couldn't remember anything. I couldn't even answer simple questions like, "Do you have a name?", because I didn't remember whether or not I'd had a name at my old home and Treesa hadn't given me a name yet.
At the time Treesa was busy doing research, trying to find out what my factory name was. When Treesa decided that she couldn't put off naming me any longer, she picked the name Chloe, playing off the sounds in the word clone. Treesa often uses things like association to name her dolls. It helps her remember our names, and because Treesa has such a large collection, she needs the help. I'll admit, having a name has helped me shape a new identity for myself in my mind. It gave me a starting point to build around. I was somebody, instead of nobody.
But to get back to my first meeting with Mary, after she found out about my memory loss she did everything she could to make me feel comfortable in my new home. Summer was often very busy looking after KC, and Skye didn't seem all that friendly. I later found out that Skye has a damaged leg, and that his closed off personality might be due to chronic pain. But because Skye didn't seem to want my friendship, and because Summer didn't have much free time, it was Mary who kept me company the most. Before Treesa found out about dolls being alive, we didn't have as much freedom to move around and explore. So having someone nearby to spend time with, someone who had been in Treesa's collection longer than I had, meant a lot to me.
Mary also helped me by giving me a new perspective. When she realized how upset I was over my missing memories, she suggested that, instead of thinking so much about the memories I'd lost, I should try to be grateful that I had a new home and the chance to make new memories. My friendship with Mary became such a big part of my life that, when Treesa came home with Ruth, I was worried that Mary wasn't going to have time for me anymore. Ruth is a vintage Barbie doll who also used to belong to Treesa's aunt, and she and Mary had been good friends in the past. But Mary reassured me that my friendship was still important to her. And when I actually got to meet Ruth, I think I was actually able to help her settle in here.
Ruth was separated from her husband after Treesa's aunt grew up, and neither Ruth or Mary knew what had happened to him. Ruth was stuck in the past, wishing she could forget her pain. After I explained to her how forgetting your past isn't all it's cracked up to be, Ruth seemed to have an easier time cherishing her memories, without losing herself in them. But that's Ruth's story to tell, not mine. So I'll end this post here.