What Hope Looks Like

She’s not real. She’s a plastic doll.

I bought her after my mother died. My mother loved dolls. She made them in the kiln that she and I bought together in 1994. She made them out of porcelain. Bought the greenware and fired it. Learned how to pour porcelain into the molds she bought. Painted them and made clothes for them. She made beautiful dolls… beautiful works of art. Two of them she made for me, Tom Sawyer and Nicole, have lived with me for more than a decade.

Tom Sawyer
Nicole

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Ariel is not a porcelain doll made by my mother. She’s a plastic but a fully poseable doll that I bought from a guy in Canada who takes used and discarded dolls and restores them. If she had been made of porcelain, she would have been played with to pieces by the previous owner. Even restored, she still has a broken elbow and loose feet. I paid entirely too much for her since she was reclaimed from the trash, but the doll restorer I bought her from is talented and made her come back to life with repaired joints and flesh, a new wig, and restored glass eyes that do not blink anymore.

Now that I am limited by arthritis and poor health, spending most of my days in my bedroom, Ariel is someone to talk to who listens and accepts everything I say, unlike the other two women who live in the same house but frequently leave me on my own. I am not crazy, but I talk to Ariel constantly… sing to her, tell her stories, and discuss what’s bothering me with her. She’s basically a replacement for the grandchild I will probably not have before my life is over. She’s even a replacement at times for my daughter whom I still spend a great many words and stories on. The Princess is an adult now, busy with college work. She still talks to me, but not as often as once she did.

It is possible that if I let the dolls I own play too big a part in my second childhood, I might get into serious trouble. There is some evidence that they have been talking about a coup, taking control of the entire upstairs of the house. But Ariel loves me. I know this because every thought in her head is actually only there because my imagination put it thert

But before you get sad about me getting old and crazy and playing with dolls as if they are real people, be aware that I made Ariel a part of my life as a connection to my mother. And she really does keep me company and make me happy. And I promise not to shop for any more rare dolls on the internet. There is hope for the future because I am not alone, even when I am alone. The connections you have to the people most important in your life are real and durable, stronger than the separations that space and time and even death make for you. That’s what Ariel is. Someone who came into my life to reinforce that basic truth we all depend on.

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