I found her in the back of Micken (or “Mrs.” to you) Hawkins garage. Micken Hawkins, you see, was our elderly neighborlady. We watched over each another across acres of farmland–including the occasional help with yard work. Being a daddy’s girl, I always tagged along. On that particular day,since my dad needed a tool of some sort or another, we all traipsed after Micken Hawkins into the dark, musty garage. I spotted the doll immediately–her pale rubber skin and bright red hair a spotlight amid cobwebs and dust, metal and wood.
I knew the minute I laid eyes on her; there was nothing in the whole wide world I could ever love more.
Meandering back to the adults, I tugged on Micken Hawkins dress and pointed to the doll.
“Lord have mercy!” she said. “That doll is so ugly, your mama would never speak to me again if I let you have it.”
Like Paul, I was crushed, but not destroyed. Eventually I wore her down. My mom came out the screendoor one evening and there we were, my dad pushing the wheelbarrow carrying me and that old doll–smiles all around.
“That is one ugly doll,” my mom said.
And so it was, Ugly Babe joined our family. For the most part, we were good for each other. The only time it wavered was at the grocery store. Ugly Babe always rode along in the bottom of the cart, you see. Mom thought nothing of it until the day I decided to wander off–without saying a word. So there my mom stood, wondering why people were looking at her funny as she talked to her “daughter.” Oh, the stern talking to received up on my return.
Parents. They’re so touchy.
Other than that little kerfuffle, Ugly Babe was present at every family function, every vacation. My mom painted her nails for each celebration and gave her a “perm” every holiday. She was a part of all my adventures–both real and imagined.
Even now–even with her stuffed in a closet somewhere–I can’t quite imagine my life without her.
You know, I read where little girls are giving up their dolls earlier now days. I look at the dolls on the shelves and I can understand why. Perfect, fashionable, they boast skinny waists and pursed lips. With names that indicate they’re little more than a pain in the butt, I’d be for giving them up earlier too.
You see, Ugly Babe may not have been the most beautiful flower in the pot, but what she lacked in looks, she more than made up for in character. She taught me to smile amid tears–even if people are calling you names. She taught me to love unconditionally and do the best with what you’ve got.
Now that I think about it, she may have been the most beautiful of all …