If you know my daughter, you have most likely met the ragged counterpart that dangles by her side. It wasn’t that long ago that she carried her doll everywhere. Now it’s just almost everywhere. Still we cannot get over the hump of letting go. Did I say ragged? Mmm. You look at this doll and think you understand where rag doll got its name.
The thinnest, most threadbare piece of cloth holds my daughter’s favorite doll together. Once velvety soft, Ballerina’s see-through skin now shows the dark blue threads beneath. My daughter doesn’t like these threads that intersect under her doll’s happy face, so I tell her these are her veins, just like ours.
Her head, once crowned by yellow yarn pulled into a thick ponytail, now shows only the yellow fabric underneath that is fading away from delicate rubbing when my daughter falls asleep.
The tulle tutu, long gone, disintegrated in many washes. Her satin slippers have busted and been sewn so many times by my loving husband, I don’t know what keeps them together anymore.
And Ballerina’s skin, which runs like a pair of cheap stockings, gets stitched up by Dr. Dad just as often to keep her stuffing in.
Every piece of yarn hair that fell out, every tutu scrap that fell off, my daughter agonized over. “Will Ballerina be all right?”
My daughter has slept with and carried that doll around since she was about nine months old. Every night my daughter looks at peace, Ballerina in her arms or spread across her face, just as when my daughter was a baby. If my daughter awakens in the middle of the night to find Ballerina has jumped ship, it is our job to stumble down the hall, tear apart the bed, crawl underneath it, or stretch our arms behind it in search of her.
Ballerina has wiped away tears and snot, given countless hugs, and snuggled numerous hours of the day. She goes on every trip. She watches every movie. She gets invited to tea and birthdays. She is raced to after school each day. And she is sometimes unbearably hard to part with in the mornings. She has earned every battle scar, every loving stitch, and her worn-down, onion paper skin simply by being held and being there—just pure love.
One look at that doll, and anyone else would throw her in the trash. My daughter sees love and comfort, and cries whenever I tell her I’m not sure how much longer Ballerina will make it. So we sew and mend and do a little dance and hope that Ballerina will last just as long as our daughter’s love for her does. And every time I put her in the washing machine, I pray she will come out in one piece.
In many ways, it will be a relief when my daughter is not so attached to Ballerina. I often tell her to leave Ballerina in her room, put her down, or leave her home, mainly for fear the doll will bust at the seams beyond repair one day, but also because my daughter is getting too old for all that. But I know it will mean a lot of things when Ballerina is forgotten. When that time comes, I will tuck the doll safely away, whatever her state, because somehow I have become attached to all the memories stitched inside.