OK, fine, be that way, brain. See if I care. But can I have a blog about smells? Non perfume smells? I'm declaring a series. And I'm starting with one of my favorite smells, the scent of New Barbie Doll.
It seems faintly odd to write about dolls, especially a fashion maven like Barbie, because I was never a fashion-focused girly girl. Once I got past toddlerhood, big enough to be opinionated and no longer a passive doll to dress up, Mom lost interest in those things for me. So the whole feminine-frippery-sharing thing didn't really happen.
Mom and I did interact on the girly front, but "front" might be the right word. She insisted on getting my hair combable-tangle-free and with an unflattering razor-straight center part every day; I stole a piece of the red silk scarf that her mother had given her a piece of. There wasn't exactly a meeting of the minds. We came much closer to bonding over food. Or her mother; why do you think I stole the scarf? But those are different smells. (I still haven't found her mother's perfume.)
Come to think of it, this leads me to another possible reason why I'm not writing: Because I need to write about Mom, and I'm not ready to do so, except in little bits and fits and starts and passive-aggressive side remarks in my posts on other subjects. I need to reconcile my gratitude that she taught me to love things like marzipan and daffodils with my resentment that there wasn't more that we shared, that she wasn't (and isn't) sufficiently interested in me for there to be more. I need to reconcile the person that I told myself that she was, with the person that she really was and is. I need to accept that while I adored her parents, her childhood wasn't exactly ideal either. I need to figure out why I think of her in the past tense, when she's still just a phone call and a thousand or so miles away.
I need to decide whether I'm relieved or angry that I can safely write about her here, because she's not going to bother to read my blog. To steal the phrase, she's just not that into me.
One of the things that Mom did do, was Christmas. I don't know how our holidays compared to those for other kids, but I do know that when we were small my brother and I were presented with a Christmas that fulfilled our--or at least my; I shouldn't speak when I don't know his mind--shiny get-up-in-the-wee-hours-with-a-pounding-heart hopes. And I'm pretty sure that Mom was a big part of that.
I do find myself pausing and wondering: When both parents were shambling around sleepily at one o'clock Christmas morning, was Mom the one primarily producing the shiny? Am I mistaken, and was it mainly Dad? I always took it as an article of faith that Mom cared about our Christmas, that it was one of the times when she looked outside herself to do something for other people, and I think it's true. If it's not true, well, maybe Dad, now that he's gone, won't mind giving Mom the credit if it's what she needs to get and what I need to give her.
So. Christmas. The Christmas tree, and special snacks that were exotic to my childhood self, and dinner, and comfy family rituals, and of course gifts. Our Christmas gifts were mostly about new toys--clothes and educational toys were not invited. Toys weren't bought casually throughout the year; they had to wait for holidays or birthdays, making them all the more special. Christmas meant toys that I wanted, that I discovered from hours and hours with the Sears Wish Book. Not what Mom thought I should want, but what I actually wanted. On that subject, Mom was interested enough to hear me.
New toys had those smells, those modern, manufactured, no doubt horribly unhealthy smells, and I loved those smells. The dusty smell of bright-colored cardboard boxes, the barely-there and indescribable smell of clear plastic enclosures, the fabric-treatment smell of new doll clothes, and most importantly, the wonderful rubbery-plastic smell of a new Barbie doll.
I still love those dolls. Even as an adult, when I'm near the toy department of a big store I'll sometimes go to look at the doll displays, savoring the idea that I could buy whatever I please, though I never do. And I love the smell wherever I find it, even in an eraser or the rubberized handle of a new garden trowel. New Barbie Doll Note, I'm realizing, perhaps meant not just new childhood wealth, but times when Mom demonstrated that she cared and that she knew who I was.
Now, Barbie herself was not my favorite character in the BarbieVerse. I preferred Skipper, especially back when she was ungiggly and flat-chested and straight-haired and intelligent-looking and lacking in scarey eye makeup. It was Skipper that had the ever-growing handmade-by-me wardrobe (including at least one garment made from that stolen red silk scarf), selections of which were carried in stuff sacks before I knew what a stuff sack was, as she travelled on endless adventures with her dog, Fateful. Yes, I'm sure that I got the name from some TV dog named Faithful. Which meaning did I think I was getting? I wish I knew.
And then there was Dawn, a short, twenties-flapper-figured clone of Barbie, with another intelligent face, though she was laughing and not sober like Skipper. And the Sunshine Family, a cheerful trio that I wished I could meet in real life and, interestingly, the only ones that I cared to keep into adulthood. But they all smelled like New Barbie Doll when they first arrived.
So... this post was going to be about shiny toys, and seems to have instead led me in a cranky direction. But it did lead; I didn't have to get out and push.
Image: By Joe Mabel. Wikimedia Commons.