I had these dolls. Their names were Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy. My mom made them for me and I remember how much I loved them as a little girl. My children have not shared the same love for them. It isn’t that they hated them, but they have always been indifferent. Maybe because they are boys. Who knows, but they didn’t feel the same bond to them that I did. Unfortunately, one of my dogs did. He did a bit of a number on them several years ago. It was mostly to the back of the dolls, particularly one of their heads and they were in desperate need of repair. Repairs that I never seemed to have time for. They were relocated to the bottom of the toy box where they stayed for years.
David and I have been doing a major purge. Our little house has been bursting at the seams for quite some time and when you add a new baby to the house, the gear and toys inside seem to grow exponentially. Something had to go. This kind of thing is easy for David. He doesn’t have a drop of hoarder blood in his system. Saying goodbye can be harder for me. I come from a long line of hoarders. For me, it is easier just to reorganize and make everything fit. Unfortunately, there comes a time when all the things pile up and there is no amount of pushing, prodding or rearranging that is going to make them fit again. And I do not ever want to end up on Hoarders or living in a situation that requires me to walk through a narrow pathway between piles and piles of worthless stuff that I don’t even remember. At first it was easy. Puzzles with missing pieces? Gone. Toys that didn’t work anymore? Toss ‘em. Weird little dime store novelties that came in birthday party favor bags? Gone, gone, gone.
Then we got to the toy box. Surprisingly, there was a lot that was easy to get rid of. There were countless stuffed animals and that had never been played with and that had no sentimental attachment whatsoever. It felt good to get rid of it. It felt freeing. But then we got to the rag dolls. They were battered and broken. With a new baby in the house I didn’t have the time or the energy to fix them and didn’t know if I ever would. They needed new stuffing, they needed rips repaired. Their hair was falling off and tangled. I didn’t know where to even start to fix them. They overwhelmed me. I knew that putting them into the giveaway pile would be the quickest solution, but I hesitated. Something was holding me back.
I asked the boys what they thought of the dolls. They were indifferent. I asked David. He really didn’t seem to care either. Little Lady is too little to care. Deep down, I knew I cared but I thought I was being silly, overly sentimental and over emotional. I reminded myself that they were just things. I didn’t need them. No one had even looked at them in years. They went into the pile. At first I felt relieved, liberated even. I wouldn’t feel the need to make the necessary repairs to them anymore and I wouldn’t be overwhelmed trying to make room to store them. Their burden was gone.
Or so I thought.
I woke up this morning and realized that they were gone. They were really gone and I wasn’t going to ever see them again. What had I done? I knew that the reason I had hesitated in the first place was that I wasn’t ready to let them go. The reason I had asked the boys and David what they thought of the dolls was that I had desperately wanted someone to affirm that it was okay if I wanted to keep them. I wasn’t just being a hoarder and they really were special, even if they were only special to me. I wanted someone to say that it was okay.
My mom made those dolls for me. She made them because I LOVED Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy. I loved their red yarn hair and their striped socks. I loved their little triangle nose and their beady black eyes. I pictured my mom working on those dolls. Handmaking them with love for me. FOR ME. I thought about how much I love my kids and how I would do anything to make them happy and then I thought about my mom making them for me again and I started to cry. Those dolls weren’t just things to me and deep down I had known it all the time. They may have had rips and tears and I may never have had the chance to fix them, but it didn’t matter. I loved them. And now they were gone.
I told David how I was feeling. He asked why I hadn’t said anything in the first place and I said that I didn’t know. I honestly think I was afraid and embarrassed that I was being silly. That I was just being a hoarder and I really, really did not want to be a hoarder. I told him that I had messed up and I was so upset with myself. They were irreplaceable. It wasn’t like I could go onto eBay and just get some Raggedy Ann dolls to replace them. I wanted my dolls with the matching red calico print clothes that my mom had made just for me. I wanted the dolls with the smudged mouth from the time my oldest son was teething and drooled all over them. The dolls that had uneven button stitching because I had reattached them myself when I was just learning to sew. I even wanted the weird rips in the back that my nearly fourteen-year-old Chihuahua had put there. I cried thinking about my mom making them and remembering playing with them as a child. I cried thinking about how they used to sit in the mini rocking chair in the corner of the boys’ room before they were relocated to the toy box and I cried realizing that Little Lady would never even see them.
Then David sent me a picture he had taken on his phone and I cried so hard that it hurt. Oprah calls it the “ugly cry” and my ugly cry was in full force. There, sitting in the front seat of his car were my rag dolls. My broken and battered rag dolls with the matching red calico clothes and striped socks. Together in the seat, with their backs away from the camera you couldn’t see their rips or tears and they looked better than any bouquet of flowers or piece of jewelry. When David realized that I was upset he had gone back and rescued them and in doing so he rescued me from my feelings of regret. And I love them even more than I did before. Now when I look at them I will think of my mom and her love for me and all of my sweet memories of the dolls like my babies crawling all over them and my dog looking up at me while surrounded with all of their “stuff and fluff.” I will also think about my husband who cares so much about my feelings that he would drop everything to track down something just to keep me from feeling sad, and I will look at those dolls and remember that my feelings matter, that they are valid and important and I should never fill silly or embarrassed when something tugs at my heartstrings. But most importantly, when I see those dolls, I will be reminded about how blessed I am to have parents and a husband and children who love me just as I am.