A Doll Story

Dolls. Who among us (and I’m including you male readers right now) doesn’t have some story about a doll?

I was mostly a tomboy and not into dolls. I liked to roam the woods. But here’s a pic of me at three or four - happily caring for Tiny Tears. Anyone remember her? She had an opening suitable for adding water and then she cried tears on command. I don’t recall where the water went in or how the tears came out, but I remember Tiny Tears. Isn’t it odd that she didn’t have a name? Who wants to be known as Tiny first name, Tears last name?  Although it could be a great stripper name.

Speaking of strippers, my sisters and I loved our Barbie Dolls. One of our favorite pastimes was “Barbie’s Penthouse” - fashioned on a big patchwork quilt spread carefully on the double bed, with a spindle bench at the end of the bed. Each quilt square was a room. We spent hours making furniture and accessories out of cardboard- leaning our glam Barbies on the spindles, so they could look down from the Penthouse onto the city below.

But back to Tiny Tears, because she’s the real star of this doll story.

In 1984, I briefly managed apartment property in Dallas, Texas. The 24 unit, two story buildings were shabby chic before the term was invented, and reeked charm - stained glass windows and Murphy Bed closets in the living rooms - which were cleared of the beds - making a space that could conveniently house a desk and bookshelf.

Hattie, the house keeper, was a carryover from an earlier, more elegant era - a wizened older woman who lived above the wood frame garages. Hattie cleaned emptied apartments, and swept the walks between the buildings. She did this with a methodical precision honed by years of service - and always early in the day, before the thermometer inched toward 100 degrees - which it occasionally did on those hot summer days in Texas.

Long story short, that August Dallas suffered the longest heatwave in recorded history - nine or ten days of temps above 100. And on the fifth morning of the heat wave, Hattie did not come down to sweep the walks.

We pondered what to do. Perhaps she was visiting family and we just hadn’t been told. By late afternoon, concern bordered on panic. David went upstairs to Hattie’s door and knocked firmly. When there wasn’t an answer, he kicked in the locked door. Hattie was dead; a victim of the heat and lack of air conditioning. There wasn’t even a fan.

Hattie’s relatives managed the details, and we didn’t see them again until a week later, when they returned, ransacked the small apartment looking for valuables, and left the place a wreck - odd, accumulated stuff Hattie’d been removing from vacant apartments for thirty years pitched knee deep in the small rooms. We eyed the mess cautiously; unsure about how to clean up.

And then I spotted Tiny Tears, partially buried between the wall and the bed. I pried her out - straightened the little shift she was wearing, and took her home with us. Maybe nobody else wanted her, but to me she was a sweet memory from the past. I propped her up on the shelf over the desk in my Murphy Bed office. We’d figure out how to dispose of the mess another time. Now it was late, and I wanted to go to bed.

David decided to unwind with a little TV, and settled onto the couch across the room.

I was almost asleep when I heard a huge thud in the living room. David’s a big guy - over six feet tall - and it sounded shockingly as though he had suddenly collapsed on the living room floor. Or jumped off the couch. Startled, I ran into the other room.

David was sitting on the couch; face white and eyes wide. Tiny Tears? She was there - on the floor in the middle of the room. Seems while he was sitting there, watching TV, she flew off the shelf - as though thrown full force by an angry child. He was frozen on the couch, and hadn’t touched her.

Hattie’s ghost? Some weird vibration in the building, or in the neighborhood? We’ll never know. But Tiny Tears went into the dumpster ASAP; my hands shaking with fear of the unknown. 

And that’s my doll story.