Friday, December 10, 2010

Disturbing Dawn Doll

I would like to introduce you to this maimed Dawn doll from my childhood. I have no memory of how she lost the bottom half of her arm, and I was not one of those kids who engage in doll abuse. I do admire her chutzpah in wearing a newly fashionable cold-shoulder dress.

I was reunited with Dawn three or so years ago. I think it was Mother's Day, and I was at Glen Island Park in New Rochelle, N.Y. with my mother, my grandmother, my kids and my husband. As my mother and son fished, my grandmother reached into her pocket and handed me the doll.

I was startled by her hacked off stump, and I didn't recognize her. It's certainly possible that we used to hang out, as my once photographic memory has gotten a bit wobbly. I do recall playing with Dawn, the more diminutive Barbie knockoff, just not an injured one. "When her arm broke your mother didn't want you to have it any more," Grandma explained. "So I put it in a drawer." This did not surprise me, as the woman saved everything. She hung onto Dawn for almost forty years! She actually packed it and moved with it, twice. I imagine her thought process on this: "Some day Chrissy will find a man, God help her, and maybe she'll squeeze out a daughter before her ovaries dry up, and that daughter will certainly want the opportunity to play with a one-and-a-half armed doll from the late sixties." Grandma wanted permission to give Dawn to my daughter Violet, so I said ok. My mother, cranky from chemo, shook her head disgustedly.

The other day Violet and I were playing, and she wanted to develop a story line about how Dawn lost her arm. I suggested that she was injured by a shark while surfing, inspired by an article we had done while I was at ym. Violet loved that.

You've got to cherish your family heirlooms, such as they are.


  1. Dawn. My sister had one as did I. Tiny bodies. Tiny clothes. Never really fit in with our Barbies. Sort of like the poor cousin.

  2. love ur post here... wht ur mom did really touches me :)

  3. One: I squee'd aloud (literally) when I saw your Dawn doll. I was never a big fan of Barbie dolls when I was a kid (I always found them too hard to dress, and their hair too hard to comb and style), but I loved the handful of Dawn dolls I had. Their hair was longer and easier to comb, and I never needed to change their outfits because they seemed to have the perfect outfits on already. I didn't know too many other girls who had Dawn dolls, either. In my group of elementary school girl friends, I was the only one. (Hence, the squee.)

    I also had a little 'American Bandstand'-like pedestal for my Dawn dolls, with little pegs for their feet. I could put them on the 3-tiered, circular pedestal, pose their arms, and then turn a little crank in the back, and the circular 'plates' of the pedestal would move back and forth, assisting my Dawn dolls in doing a rather robotic version of the twist. I have no idea where my mom found the pedestal thing, but I absolutely loved it.

    Two: Speaking of doll maiming, I had a maimed Skipper doll back in the day. I didn't maim her; it was done by her previous owner. Having issues with Barbie dolls the way I did, I'd always wanted a Skipper doll because I was under the youthful impression that they'd be 'more fun' and 'different' from my Barbie dolls. I kept bugging my mom to get me a Skipper doll, and she happened to find one for 50 cents at a garage sale one day. I was so excited when she brought the doll home...only to find that Skipper's toes were cut off. Nothing else; just the toes.

    At the time, I remember thinking, why the toes? It didn't make sense. In reflecting on it years later, though, I think I know why. Skipper really wasn't all that different from Barbie. She had the same arched foot shape as Barbie, as if she was permanently wearing high heels, even with no shoes on. And I recall how difficult it could be to get Barbie's shoes to stay on her feet. I'm guessing that Skipper's previous owner cut off her toes to make it easier for those ridiculously tiny shoes to stay on her feet. ...Which sounds a hell of a lot like those real women who get toe-shortening/narrowing surgery to fit into their Jimmy Choos.

    Not that I think playing with dolls has such an affect on all kids. I think it has more to do with the stories you tell about them and *how* you play with them. I had plenty of Barbies and other dolls as a kid. But because I usually found them too hard to dress, style their hair, etc, I didn't play with them very often. I'd toss them in a drawer with no clothes on and not take them out again until my friends who liked to play with dolls came over. I much preferred to play with coloring books, tell stories, and dance around the living room while listening to my mom's old records. Barbie dolls were too much work.

  4. Hey, thanks for posting, thirtiesgirl. That pedestal thingy sounds really cool and I liked the story of the no-toed Skipper.

  5. Oh my I accidentally came across this on Google and had to laugh. Grandma definitely deserves a hug for saving Dawn!

    I'd like to invite you to visit my sight, FranceRants, and specifically look at my post called Childhood Memory Rant. I think you would like it!