20 June 2011

Doll Series, #3

My cousin Janny and I received matching dolls one year. They had shiny, brittle faces with red cheeks and lips painted on, and eyes painted on, too. They became our favorite dolls. Both of us carried them around at home, and to each other's for visits and sleep-overs.

One evening, my father was reading the paper. He showed me a big newspaper photo--seems like half the page, thinking back--of rows and rows of dolls like the ones Janny and I had. Something terrible had happened to them. Their faces were blackened and burned! Where their shiny eyes and nose and mouth had been, there was nothing but a chalky black hole.

I looked at those dolls; I looked at my doll; I looked at those dolls again.... I know my hair stood on end. My father and Janny's father were on the phone for a while. Then my father delivered the news:  He had to take my doll and set it on fire and get rid of it forever.

I stood at the screen door and watched as it lit up. Pretty spectacular. Then, the melting stage, pretty gruesome. It was all so freaky, in the way Wizard of Oz is freaky when that witch's toes curl up. I make it sound here like I was resigned to the whole affair, but I wasn't. I cried and screamed to beat the band. I asked Janny later and she said she cried and screamed, too. Then we got over it and it didn't matter.

I googled the dolls in this memory and found out that the problem was that they had celluloid faces. Celluloid was a FAIL of a plastic that spontaneously burst into flame at high--but well within climate range--temperatures.

Apparently they can be repaired....
Sometimes you see celluloid dolls like these at flea markets and antique stores. Often their shiny heads are cracked or their noses punched in. I don't know why they're not worried about these dolls spontaneously blowing up. Maybe it was a hoax. An urban legend before there was urban anything.

I wouldn't want to take the chance though. I'd burn those dolls down.

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