Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Old Barbies

With the loss of my Father last year, I am especially missing my mother this Mother’s Day. I wrote this piece shortly before her death fifteen years ago, and we read it at her service. I thought it might be time to share it with One Ringing Bell readers. May you have a blessed Mother’s Day no matter your circumstances.

The Old Barbies

I thank my God upon every remembrance of you. Philippians 1:3


In three worn plastic cases on a shelf in the top of my daughter’s closet is a collection fondly called the “old Barbies.” These are the dolls of my childhood; some look better than others do.  There’s my first Barbie with blonde bubble hair and a red swimsuit, the Barbie with a molded plastic head and three wigs, Skipper and Francie who still look pretty good, and a Barbie who had the first bendable legs, but now also has green oxidized ears. Store-bought Barbie clothes came at a high premium for our family in the mid- sixties.  I only received these on my birthday or Christmas. 

However, when I was eight or nine, my mother spent days making an assortment of tiny hand sewn garments: evening gowns of satin and tulle with sequins around the bodice, sixties print skirts and blouses, a lined purple velveteen coat. Even Ken had a suit, a sailor outfit and pajamas.

All of these fashions have grown a little shabby through the years, as many small hands have imagined wonderful things with them. Even after decades of wear, the “old Barbies” have a mysterious appeal. They have been highly favored over “new Barbies.” 

Somehow, little ones always sense the love sewn into these  pieces of fabric; somehow, they know the precious labor that produced them. In those weary hours my mother spent crouched over a sewing machine fitting sleeves no bigger than a finger into dime sized arm holes, she had no way of knowing these would become a legacy. When I see children playing with the “old Barbies,” I know the hours my mother spent making these were some of her crowning moments.

As a child, I never understood the price my mother must have paid to make these doll clothes, for she bravely fought many private battles that spanned her adult life. Many never knew about her struggles. Now, I realize that every garment she made cost her dearly. I don’t know how she did it. Making tiny doll clothes would be a challenge for almost anyone, but for her—they were a costly labor of love.

My mother is now in Heaven, but at our house we will always give thanks to God for her life, as we remember her for many reasons, especially the “old Barbies.” 

Related: A Chair and a Mother's Courage HERE

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