I remember how I felt when I found her on the top shelf of the closet in our guest bedroom. It was a wonderful sense of accomplishment immediately followed by overwhelming regret. It was the first and last time I was successful at snooping for hidden Christmas presents. Once I found her, I realized what a mistake I had made. I now had to keep my discovery a secret for the coming weeks, and would have to fake my excitement on Christmas morning when I opened what would be my “big” present that year. I never searched for hidden presents again.
I named her Debbie because of her resemblance to me, in the self-centered manner expected from an 8 year old. She was a high quality doll, the fanciest one I owned throughout my childhood. I outgrew her eventually, and she spent some years stored in the basement. I was 15 when my parents divorced and the contents of our house went different directions. I took with me a box of memorabilia from when I was a kid: my pencil collection, a dollar bill signed my a Washington Redskins player I once met, the leg brace I wore when I tore a few ligaments in my knee that was signed by my friends, and Debbie.
Fast forward 10 years and Debbie is brought out of the box at the request of my then 4-year-old daughter, who wanted to play with her. She was loved again for a while, then tossed in a toy box with other playthings, and not cared for the way she should have been. Another 10 years and two kids later, and Debbie had seen better days.
A recent comment from the mother of my daughter’s friend made me realize how neglectful I’d been. Debbie’s head had somehow ended up sitting on a shelf near the front door. “That’s really creepy,” the woman had said. It was that moment I realized how I had failed Debbie; I still saw her potential to be the beautiful, expensive doll she had once been, and my feelings were hurt that someone thought she was creepy.
Today I gave Debbie the love and attention she so desperately needed. Her head reattached, hair detangled, trimmed and styled, her stuffing replaced, and dressed in her freshly ironed dress, she’s looking better than ever. It was very therapeutic, taking care of my namesake. Her problems were not a quick fix, but once I made the decision to commit to her makeover, I enjoyed it. From now on, she’ll sit on a shelf in my room, when she’ll keep me company until another little girl asks to play with her.