My Closet: Part 2
Next to the puppet theater and the pans, on the top shelf of the closet, is a box containing GI Joe action figures, outfits (mostly uniforms) and accessories. These are my brothers’ toys, but they didn’t want them, so they ended up in my closet. There are at least 8 complete outfits with accessories, including oxygen tanks, backpacks, weapons, a canteen, an attaché case with secret weapons inside of it, a spy radio kit, a bugle, machete, camouflaged bandana, and so on. My brother Markus can match each accessory to its corresponding outfit and explain how the little gadgets work. The figures themselves are quite fascinating with a series of joints that can be manipulated to mimic a human body (ankle and knee joints, wrist and elbow joints). They are more intricate than the Barbie dolls my sister and I played with.
My sister and I decided to get rid of our Barbie dolls (I actually had a Madge doll) because they were too worn. Their hair had been styled a few too many times and their plastic skin couldn’t be cleaned anymore, rendering them beyond ugly. But my mom kept most of the Barbie clothes – she washed and ironed every piece and put it neatly into a large plastic wardrobe bag, complete with moth balls. And now the bag sits on the top shelf of my closet. I like to pull out individual outfits once in a while and marvel at their construction. Some of the outfits are the ones that came with the dolls, or that we bought. But the majority of the outfits were sewn or knit by my grandmother.
My Swiss grandmother came to visit us in Norfolk from November to January one year in the early 60s. It was the year my sister and I hoped to finally get a Barbie doll. Each day, she would disappear for a few hours to her room – to nap we supposed. My grandmother earned her living as a seamstress. She was also a master knitter. When we would visit her in the summers, we got to pore over knitting magazines and choose a sweater we would like for her to make us. We went with her to the yarn store and chose the wool that would be perfect for our sweater. Sometimes she finished the sweater before we headed back to the States, and sometimes it would come in the mail in a brown paper package, tied up with twine.
So, it should have come as no surprise to us that when she disappeared each day, she was making doll clothes for our Barbies. She used leftover scraps of fabric and yarn to make the clothes. She used teensy buttons, snaps and ties for closures. The busts had darts to fit Barbie’s ample bust and the style of the clothes was heavily influenced by the times – the time of Jackie Kennedy – complete with pill box hats, sheath dresses, shawl collars, and fur trimmed coats. We not only received Barbie dolls that Christmas, we also got a complete wardrobe of stylish, handmade clothes – better than the store-bought stuff.
I had a Barbie case and I delighted in hanging the dresses and coats up on the clothes rod and folding the sweaters and underwear neatly in the bottom of the case.
I have become the keeper of these things nobody else wants. I don’t have lots of space in my house, but I can’t imagine parting with them. My kids have made it clear they are not interested in any of the stuff at this point in time, so I am holding out hope that, as my granddaughter gets older, we can pull these things out and play with them. And, even if the things disappear at some point, I can hope that the memories and stories associated with them, will continue.