A long time ago, perhaps it was 1938, in that other world called “childhood,” I had a doll – a Princess Elizabeth doll. My Princess Elizabeth doll had blonde hair like me. She started out with brown eyes, but my mother had them painted blue so that Princess Elizabeth would look just like me. And there was a lady who would come to the house, and she would sew clothing for me and then copy the clothing for Princess Elizabeth – so that we would look like twins. My mother made me take that doll with me wherever I went because, “You look so adorable together.” And she was right. Wherever we went, that doll and I, people would stop to look and would say, “How cute. You look just like twins.” One day I dragged the doll up to a mirror and stood right next to it. There was no doubt; the doll was prettier.
My days with Princess Elizabeth went on for what seemed like a lifetime, a lifetime in which I learned to detest that doll. After all, what child of six has any real concept of time? A child just knows (at least this child did) that she had been waiting for what seemed like a very long time, for her life to change.
I walked through the days with Princess Elizabeth wearing the same dresses and the same Mary Jane shoes until there came a day when a “special outfit” was to be made – a coat and hat to go to some special place. A lady came with some heavy gray cloth and some gray fur. I was told to go out and play. When I was called back into the room, Princess Elizabeth had been fitted with a gray coat with a collar of gray fur, and a tam had been placed on her head with a big gray fur pom-pom on top. The lady then worked on cutting and sewing a hat and a coat for me as my mother watched and commented: “The doll is so much easier to fit. The outfit really suits a Princess. I suppose one has to accept that many people are just born flawed.”
I realized with a start that the doll no longer looked like me. I looked like the doll.
Many years passed when, during one of my many moves – to Japan or to the Midwest, I can’t remember – I came upon a long box. Upon opening it I found Princess Elizabeth stretched out, her body as sleek as ever, clothed in white panties and a white shift – her hair slightly matted – white socks on her feet. As I lifted her out of her box, her shuttered eyes opened revealing the blue painted iris of one; the other had been gouged out with the slashes of a knife’s edge that scarred the empty socket – much like the slashed paintings I inherited when my parents died.
I now look back on those days with a sense of pride in having overcome the pain they evoke – for it isn’t our memories that destroy us; it’s what we allow them to do to us.