Sunday, February 17, 2013

Farewell, Dolly

I call her Christine. She first belonged to Minnie Pauline Nichols when she was a little girl living on Figueroa Street in Folsom, California. Minnie was born September 9, 1886 and I'm guessing she got the doll sometime before her tenth birthday in 1896. I'm also guessing Minnie's mother Christine Wagner Nichols gave the doll to her youngest daughter (Minnie was the seventh born of eight children to William and Christine -- one, Loren, died in infancy). Christine died of pneumonia just after Minnie's twelfth birthday. I like to think the doll was a comfort to my grandmother while she grieved.

The doll wears several layers of handmade petticoats and a pair of pantaloons covering her kid body which is in remarkably good condition, given that it is around 116 years old. Her bisque head and hands are likewise in great condition. Her eyes still open and shut and her opened mouth shows her carefully formed teeth. Her feet are covered with knit stockings which remain in perfect condition. Her hair has been loved a bit too much. It is rather bedraggled and is trying to separate from her scalp. There are a few stains down the front of her dress. Did the little girl who first owned her try to feed her? Was it a tea party mishap? I must admit there is something overall scarey or creepy looking about the doll. I'm not sure how she will be received by a young girl today. But, I guess I'll soon find out.

I was honored when my grandmother chose to give her to me sometime after the birth of my first daughter, Robin. But, I must admit I did nothing to add to her character. She passed her years with me wrapped in a plastic bag, languishing in a dresser drawer. I took her out from time to time, tried to love her and imagined my grandmother holding her, feeling the love across the years. The doll is in good condition, but not pristine, so I assume she was actively loved, yet respected.

It's hard to pass down something like this: I have wonderful memories of my grandmother whom I idolize to this day. The next recipient will not have that history. She will only know she is receiving a family heirloom and it will be many years, if ever, before she grasps the significance of the doll. But, I am too old to hang on to it. It's time to try to pass it and all the love attached along to another generation. Mallaika Louise Paine will be the next owner. Mallaika was born October 15, 2005, 119 years after Minnie Pauline Nichols. Mallaika is the great-great-great-great granddaughter of Christine Wagner Nichols. Wouldn't it be wonderful if Mallaika could pass it on to her own great-granddaughter?


  1. Did you wash her hair? She looks lovely, not nearly as sad as when I saw her.

  2. No, didn't wash it -- just smoothed it a bit.