Saturday, May 21, 2011

I remember my favourite toy

By Damaria Senne

I remember my favourite toy. Her name was Valerie and she was a big, navy and white cloth doll, with a face made from the plastic material usually used for toys.

I don’t know where she came from – whether my parents bought her for me or whether I inherited her – but by the time I became conscious of her in my life, she was a dirty, messy baby that I dragged everywhere I went.

Valerie is not here.These dolls were knitted to be given to abused
 children at the police station while the crime is being reported,
in order to keep them busy.
 Valerie was there to keep me company when I didn’t have anyone to play with. My one brother was five years older than me, and at that age, the age gap seemed huge. And he wasn’t going to play dolls with a girl.

And while my younger brother seemed much closer in age (three years younger), he seemed like a wild animal bent on running, pushing and pulling whatever he could get his grubby hands on. I was certainly not going to allow him to play with my beautiful Valerie, and he  was not interested in  sitting still for hours while we dressed Valerie in the latest clothing I created.

Over the years Valerie became an accepted member of my family, and at ten, when my younger sister was born, it seemed natural to give over the care and feeding of my childhood companion to her. Valerie was still filthy and raggedy, but she was very well loved.

That is, until my older brother and cousin convinced us girls that Valerie was sick and needed an operation. Ja, I was 14 or so, and should have known better, but....

The operation was definitely not a success. Valerie was left in pieces and despite my efforts to repair her, she was never the same again. Still well-loved, but kept more for sentimental reasons than the fact that she looked like an actual doll. Eventually, someone must have taken the remains and thrown them out while we were not looking, she disappeared.

Anyhoo, Valerie remains a legend in my family. Everyone remembers her and how much I loved her.  Interestingly, no one wants to remember the botched operation, and while it’s alluded to sometimes ( in terms of what not to do with a well-loved toy), no one jokes about it or reminds me that at 14, I fell for oldest trick perpetrated by boys who wanted to see “how it works.”

This event inspired me to write my first children's book, The Doll That Grew, which was published in 1993 by Macmillan Boleswa. Unfortunately, the book is out of print.

The post itself is my contribution to the writing exercise at The Scribble Jar FB group started by my friend Gillian Stokes. The way it works is that people give post a phrase / sentence of four or more words with which to create a piece of writing hopefully as a weekly exercise.

Anyone is welcome to join the group in with the exercises as long as they post their creations to the group for people to read. Thanks to Christopher Snow for the idea for my favourite toy. It brought back some warm memories for me.


Judy Croome said...

Damaria I laughed so at this story! And, reading about that botched operation, how glad I am that my mother never succumbed to my pleas for a brother! I had a little white teddy (I still have him) who, like your Valerie, was my favourite companion as a child.

Popping over to the Scribble Jar, although I'm not sure how active I'll be until the mad rush of the launch campaign is over!!

Judy, South Africa

tiah said...

There is a famous story in my family about the time my father decided his sister's doll's were ill. So he gave them cough medicine. We are talking in the days where there really were dolly doctors. Alas, the dolly doctors could only do so much to save them after my father's 'cure.'

Gillian said...

Thanks Sam for the wonderful story. Wish I could read your book! Thanks too for rpmoting scribble Jar. I would love to see more people participating in the weekly exercises!

Gillian said...

Your story is similar to mine in a sense. I was about 4 years old and my best friend was "golli" ( from Noddy books?) Golli went everywhere with me. One day my brothers decided to take revenge on me apparently for telling tales on them. They hid behind a bush in the garden where I was taking golli for a walk, and as I walked past, the jumped up and stabbed golli in the face with a pen-knife. I was heart broken. My Mum stitched him up but agin her was scarred. I still have golli but he is very threadbare now!

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