Friday, October 31, 2014

The Eternal Lure of Barbie

The girls are playing in a relatively clean playroom for a change.

Why? Well, bribery of course.

I offered to let them play with their mother's Barbies if they would pick up. It had to be done before lunch today so that E3 could nap and they could go home leaving a clean room for the weekend.

Usually it's done with tears and a lot of threats, but I'm getting better at this grandma thing. Bribery works quicker and better and with far less drama.

Although they have a floor full of Barbies at home, they're still attracted by the lure of foreign dolls. Foreign, that is, in the sense that they are from another time some 20+ years ago. I guess when I'm really desperate I can bribe them with mine, which are also stashed in the same closet. This winter may see them coming out for a play date again, but I have to hold something in reserve.

The thing is, I can remember this same fascination with slightly older dolls when I was small.

My only female first cousin was about five years older than me so her Barbies were of a slightly older generation. They were mid 60s models, with different bodies and hair from the ones I had just a few years later. I loved the rare times when I was allowed to play with them during a visit to their home. I don't think she ever deigned to play with me, but I always hoped she'd get tired of her Barbies and hand them down to me. All I ever got was some clothes, although most of them never fit me.

Of course, other old toys work as well, and I was delighted to stumble on this bit of grandmother magic. Watching their peaceful play I wish I had kept more than just my old Barbies, who have already been well loved by their mother and I, which is probably why they've been allowed to stay in their travel trunks in my closet all these years. Still, I wish I had Jane West and her horse and all the saddles and tack and gear, or some of my brother's old GI Joes (who were always a much more masculine alternative to the insipid Ken I had). Those items are long gone at flea markets and yard sales of the past, or left behind in some move when that last box of toys was one box too many.

I'll try not to mourn the memories I cannot pass down -- easier some day than others, when I feel more mournful regardless of the situation. I hope I can pass recover a promised box of my lost boy's toys to share with them as well, although those days will be bittersweet, at least initially.

Today I'll delight in the sing-song play of three little girls rummaging through old dolls and clothes and revisiting the magic that was once their mother's. Soon enough the dolls will return to the closet, so the magic isn't lost, and I'll have one more tool in my chest to get me through the season ahead.

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