Doll Clothes and Surgeries

     My mom's been struggling with her emotions lately. She, as I've mentioned in previous blogs, has recently returned from an almost six-month stint in a rehabilitation center; she has a broken hip and limited mobility. She is angry and frustrated and feels as if she's lost control of her life. 

   My niece is coming over tomorrow, and she's a little nervous because she hasn't seen my mom since October, so I suggested, since my niece is really into dolls, that my mom show my niece some of the miniature doll clothes that she used to play with in the 1950s. I thought this would be a good way to break the ice. 

    While rummaging around in the closet, I found what I thought was a hat box with winter scenes imprinted on it, but was actually an old sewing box which began to crumble under my fingers as I carried it carefully down the stairs and into my mom's room. She took off the lid, and inside was another small sewing box, but this one was covered with flowers. She removed the lid of the smaller box; it was full of doll clothes and metal Band-aid boxes, which were loaded with miniature toys: dishes, cups, a tray, shoes, and apron, and, curiously, a miniature wrench.

    My mom removed each item carefully, and marveled over how she used to play with them. After she returned them to their tins, she began to go through the stack of colorful doll clothes; each item over sixty years old, each item with a story. 

    She paused and fingered a small green dress with a lace collar and shoulder snaps.  "You know, Domenica, Grandpa's mother, made this for me. Right in front of me. It took her about ten minutes." 

    My mom didn't speak for awhile. She turned the dress inside out, caressed hem that was stitched by hand, ran her fingers over the white lace, and opened, then closed, the shoulder snaps. 

     "She used to watch me while Grandma, my mother, went to work. After I had my surgeries, my grandma, Domenica, used to take care of me. There was a red couch. . ." She stopped speaking suddenly, as if the memories were too much. 

    She continued, "This dress, she made it for me. It's very special. I spent a lot of time alone, you know. . . I spent a lot of time with Domenica." 

    My mom placed the small, green dress on her bed, separate from the other doll clothes, picked up her iPad, and started to watch an episode from a British television series that she's into. 

    It was clear she was done talking.

    My mom was born in 1948 with one leg longer than the other. I believe that there was an issue with her bones being weak, too, but I am not sure. She had the first surgery to correct her leg when she was eight years old, and medical science being what it was in the 1950s, had several more surgeries to continue to attempt to correct the damage. She's never been completely mobile due to her so-called her birth defect, and her mobility has decreased as she's grown older. 

    She started using one crutch to support herself when she was in her forties, and then she grew to need two crutches to support her. By the time she was in her fifties, the damage to her legs and her knees was so extensive and caused her so much pain that she had to undergo a double-knee replacement. 

   She had a double-shoulder replacement when she was in her sixties. 

    Last year, pre-COVID, she had surgery repair some damage in her neck that left her unable to completely turn her head from right to left, or left to right. 

    My mom is waiting to have another surgery- this time to repair the damage to her broken hip. 

    When she was a little girl, she was alone, she waited and hoped that the next surgery would be the one to fix her. 

    Now she is a grandmother, she is alone, she is waiting and hoping that the next surgery will be the one to fix her. 

    It is possible that the damage is irreparable. 

    It is possible that she will be dependent on a wheelchair for the remainder of her life.     

   Is this what she was thinking as she stroked the lace of the doll's dress made just for her by her grandmother? 




  1. This is such a poignant portrait of your mother. How difficult to accept the loss of mobility. I hope the visit with your niece will go well as they share the doll clothes.


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