Dolls, Ghosts, and Memories

Monday Morning Musings:

 “Remember thee!

Ay, thou poor ghost, whiles memory holds a seat

In this distracted globe.”

–William Shakespeare, Hamlet

 

“but with ribbons

it was spinning Fates conjured,

bewitched by the doll mistress

who knew her dreams.

Whose intention they must spin.”

–Luanne Castle, “For the Doll Mistress”

from Doll God (Aldrich Press, 2015)

 

The play began,

the first floor of a bed and breakfast,

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, late November,

every surface is covered with knickknacks,

including American Girl doll Samantha,

and it turns out that Jenny, a guest there,

had a Samantha doll,

who she believed was always angry at her,

maybe is still angry at her,

now that she’s packed away in the basement of Jenny’s parents’ home,

(though Jenny cut out pieces of the cardboard box so the doll could see)

And the innkeeper asks Jenny and her boyfriend,

who are facing problems in their relationship,

she asks them each separately,

if they’ve ever felt that they were watched

as though something watched over them.

(I think of how I don’t like people to watch me

when I sleep. How I’ve been awakened by a gaze.)

The bed and breakfast might be haunted,

(this is Gettysburg, after all)

the Jackson room is sometimes “unreliable,”

(perhaps, so are we all)

Mertis, the innkeeper, mentions

the building was a hospital for Union soldiers,

amputated limbs were tossed out of the windows.

Jenny later meets Genevieve, Mertis’s, blind friend,

Genevieve might be crazy,

she thought she was possessed by the spirit of her ex-husband John,

and John, is also the name of Jenny’s former lover,

(we all know someone named John)

who also has a hold on her,

Genevieve hears rustling sounds that no one else hears—

is it us, the audience?

Mertis admits she’s a bit of a mind reader.

Is she also a witch,

a doll mistress, arranging the scenes for Jenny and Elias?

Mertis winds the clock at the end of each scene,

she closes the curtains at the end of each act, and opens them again.

She lights her “angel chimes,” near the end of the play,

flames cause the angel figures to fly,

there is a final sort of “ah-ha” moment,

did Mertis help bring it about?

Did she know their dreams,

the intentions they must spin?

 

There is much to ponder in this play,

filled with as many details as the B&B’s room,

It is long, punctuated with silences,

but it does not seem long to me.

We sit, drinking coffee,

and discuss it.

 

 

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Customs House Coffee is–of course– across the street from the Customs House Building

 

The next day, I look for my daughters’ American Girls dolls,

I see Molly and Felicity high up on a shelf

(one of each daughter’s dolls)

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Molly and Felicity with Frieda

 

but no Samantha or Josefina,

I wonder if they are in the attic

then I  wonder if they are angry.

Should I find them a new home,

foster parents to take them in?

I think of my son-in-law

who was saved by a couple who took him in,

who became his new parents,

moving behind the scenes,

directing them, providing props,

to make certain he was cared for

before he knew his dreams.

Was it fated,

fated he’d meet his love in a play?

 

We talk about dolls at my younger daughter’s house.

(ghosts and memories)

She remembers–

she didn’t want to send her Molly doll off to be repaired

fearing her doll might be replaced,

another Molly,

so she kept her Molly,

and cared gently for her fractured arm,

holding it on with a rubber band,

battlefield medicine.

 

My son-in-law enters the room,

makes an innocent remark,

daughter and I burst into laughter,

laughter that bring tears,

and simultaneously,

sitting across from one another,

we wipe our eyes,

mirror figures,

mother and daughter.

 

My mother tells us,

when she was a little girl,

sick with diphtheria,

(a ghost disease),

she dropped her doll,

“they” took it away,

wouldn’t let her have it in the hospital,

and she cried for her doll,

and she cried for her parents,

who also were not allowed in her sick room,

when she was finally  home,

there was another doll for her,

It wasn’t the same doll,

but. . .she shrugs.

Did your mother make clothes for your dolls?

(She sewed beautifully, I tell my daughter.)

Yes, until my brother was born when I was six.

He was a handful.

He baby brother, now gone,

gone before her.

Ghosts and memories.

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I have not been good about reviewing the books my friends have written. But with a play in which a doll was a key plot point, and a discussion of dolls, I thought of my doll-loving blogger friend. Poet Luanne Castle’s writes about many different topics on her blog— including family, history, travel, and cats.

Her book of poetry, Doll God   is the 2015 winner of the New Mexico-Arizona Book Award. The poems are thoughtful, thought-provoking, lyrical, and sometimes enigmatic. Do check it out!

We saw John by Annie Baker at the Arden Theater in Philadelphia.

 

Follow Your Star

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“Be brave, young lovers, and follow your star,
Be brave and faithful and true,
Cling very close to each other tonight.
I’ve been in love like you. “

–Oscar Hammerstein II, “Hello Young Lovers,” from The King and I (1951)

Last month my husband and I celebrated our thirty-fifth wedding anniversary. As I looked at our wedding photos (and cringe and laugh a little at the men in the 1970s era powder blue tuxedos. Oh those 70s fashions!), I thought of all the people who were there at our wedding, but who are no longer alive: my father, my husband’s father, my grandfathers, all of his grandparents, and some aunts, uncles, and friends. As I gazed at the photos, I also had an admittedly odd thought–it seemed strange to me that our daughters were not there to celebrate such an important event in our lives.

It was the first big wedding in either of our families, and it was such a day of laughter, tears, and merriment.

We still laugh at the memory of my reserved, non-dancing father-in-law being pulled and spun into the hora circle by an exuberant, dancing friend of my parents.

Our first daughter would not make her entrance for almost a decade after our wedding, and our second daughter three years after that. By that time, I had finished graduate school and published my first book.

I was a different person thirty-five years ago when we married, young and naïve. I had no idea then that my husband and I would have two such incredibly wonderful, talented daughters– young women who are truly good and kind, and who want to make the world a better place.

Parenting is not easy. Like marriage, there are ups and downs. But with my daughters, I can honestly say there have always been many, many more ups than downs.

Thirty-five years ago, I never imagined I would have one daughter about to enter graduate school and another about to begin her first “grown-up job,” even as she juggles what are sometimes competing interests in teaching and acting. I never imagined I would have daughters who were balancing love, careers, and all the issues of young adulthood.

I also never imagined thirty-five years ago at my own wedding that someday my older daughter would be planning her wedding to another woman. Nor how excited I would be about it, and how thrilled I am that she might be wearing my wedding gown. Love is love, and I am so happy that she and her fiancée have found each other.

Thirty-five years ago, “gay marriage” was not something I ever heard mentioned. But times change. My younger daughter recently had a discussion with her young cousins who enthusiastically supported it. (OK, the five-year-old could not quite wrap his mind around the concept, but the older two thought it was wonderful that their cousin was going to marry the woman she loves.)

My daughter’s “gay marriage” will not be legal throughout the United States. But laws change. When my husband and I got married thirty-five years ago in Pennsylvania, we were required to get blood tests proving that we did not have syphilis or other diseases before we could get a marriage license. That law no longer exists. In 1967, the Supreme Court overturned state bans on interracial marriages in Loving v. Virginia. Slowly, too slowly, laws are being written and bans are being overturned. I hope that some day there will not be a distinction between “gay” and “straight” marriage. I hope and believe that someday in the United States there will simply be marriage, marriage without a modifier in front of it, marriage for any two people who love each other. I hope that someday both my daughters and all lovers, young and old, will be able to follow their stars. I’ve been in love like you.

“Love doesn’t make the world go round, love is what makes the ride worthwhile.” – Elizabeth Barrett Browning