I'd almost forgotten all about it. Well, not entirely, as I more or less remembered what the contents of the hope chest were. It wasn't often that I opened it to look through the bits and pieces of my past years such as old journals, some old letters, a few trinkets that I couldn't bear to part with (they held more of a sentimental value rather than a monetary value), even a small pillowcase that was a needlework project during my primary schooldays.
And there it was, for how could I miss it? A baby doll seated in its styrofoam chair, tucked away neatly inside the hope chest. The first thing that one sees is that she is dressed entirely in baby blue: blue bonnet, blue outfit, and blue booties. It was one of those dolls that could suck her thumb or else she would start to cry. It needed a battery, of course, but I doubt that it would have worked even if I did put in a new battery.
She was a baby doll with golden hair and wearing baby blue clothes. I was the owner of several dolls during my childhood and there was one other doll in the hope chest as well. It was a sweet, soft doll, and made of cloth. A simple memento.
I, apparently, had taken extra care with the baby doll and stored her away in the hope chest. Maybe I was already too old to play with such dolls when I first got her and wanted to preserve her somehow, to keep her in a safe place even if I couldn't really play with her anymore.
And how very odd - or appropriate, depending on how one looked at it - that I would come across the doll once again at this stage of my life. I carried her in my arms for a bit but she didn't move nor make a sound. I knew she wasn't real so I turned her this way and that, checking her clothes, looking to see if everything was still intact. And still I wondered why I kept this particular doll, why I considered her special enough to be stored away within the hope chest. Surely baby dolls were for little girls to play with. Reading through past diary entries, I did sometimes mention about having my own home or even getting married. But children were seldom, if ever, mentioned. So I don't think I ever saw myself raising children of my own. But that was a long time ago. And people do change. Or they discover or re-discover things about themselves that might take them by complete surprise. And when I did write about children, it was usually about the children that were my responsibility at the kindergarten or child-care center where I worked.
They say that all little girls dream about their own wedding day, right down to the dress and flowers. Really? I know I didn't. I did dream about a boyfriend, about a man in my life. And I thought about marriage. But I don't believe I ever imagined what the wedding gown would look like or what flowers I wanted. I guess I never thought that it would really happen to me. And having children of my own was the furthest thing from my mind.
I knew that married couples had children. I also knew that there were single women who had children. I never saw myself as being maternal. I never had any experience with babies except to look at them from a distance. And when my own brothers finally had children of their own, I was too far away to fully experience them or to visit on a regular basis. Nursery-age children were entirely different as they were a little grown by then, and you could even converse and reason with them.
So did I ever see children in my future? I don't think so. Maybe, in a way, I could foresee the future. I couldn't foresee what my life would be like, and who it would be with, but the idea of children was so foreign to me, so unlikely.
I didn't see myself as a mother. And I doubt if anyone else could envision me that way either.
Did I think that I would give the baby doll to my own child some day? Or did I just want a baby doll of my own as I couldn't have the real thing just yet?
When I was in my early twenties, I wrote that sex frightened me. Maybe it was because I was a virgin and was inexperienced. Maybe it had something to do with my father. Maybe, even then, after those unfortunate experiences with the young men involved, I realised that I would have problems with intimacy. It covers a wide range, doesn't it? Whatever true intimacy is, I suppose that I once thought it would never happen to me. Or if it did, it would be with some difficulty or discomfort.
And as much as I desired to experience that sort of intimacy, I also knew that if there were no sexual relations, the act of procreation itself, there would be no children. Maybe all those years ago, that was how it all worked out inside my head.
A baby blue doll. A sweet little thing. But she's not real. Not even close.