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Many of you know and love my little sister Julie. I am “the other sister” to her bright, sunny friendliness.
“Look!” Rolfians will say. “There’s Julie!”
“No,” another Rolfian will reply, “that’s the other one.”
Hard to think I almost killed her in my youth…
I was ten years old, so Julie must have been just over one years old herself. I took over the mothering of her as much as I could. She slept in my room! I was the one that got up in the night to take care of her (and yes, you helped Mom).
One day I had taken my new little sister to the beach. She was barely old enough to walk! But we lived in Hawaii, and it was just down the street. It was a mild little place, Clissle’s Beach was. I was even baptized in it! In the ocean! It was just a part of our life.
So there I was in chest high salt water, my baby sister Julie on a canvas air raft, trustingly gurgling and laughing.
One minute she was there, the next she had completely disappeared. You know what panic feels like? It feels like THAT. There were several other people at the beach, but no one noticed. There was no time to scream for help, no time to panic. All I could do was plunge my arm into the water and hope.
I reached in. Nothing. Again. Nothing. Maybe my parents wouldn’t notice. They already had three other little girls…
The third time I felt a bathing suit strap. I held on and pulled with all my might. Julie came up sputtering and coughing and crying. I grabbed her and the raft, which I had somehow managed to hang on to, and made my way to the shore.
My heart skittered when I saw my eldest sister January lying on the beach. I waited for her to spring up and scream, “You! You almost MURDERED JULIE!!” But she didn’t. She just lay there. I was happy to discover that her eyes were closed behind her sunglasses. A clean getaway then.
I never told a soul in my family. Not for thirty years.
Years later, Julie got back at me – although she doesn’t remember this. We were in a thrift store, hunting for treasures.
“Look!” I said. “A Mouli!”
For those of you who don’t know, a *Mouli is a cheese grater, possibly French in nature. Growing up, we used this thing religiously. Every Sunday was Mexican food day. Every Sunday while someone else cut lettuce, one of us would be cranking that handle around, grating cheese (better than the other way around! Har.)
I had always wanted a Mouli of my own!
“Huh,” Julie responded. “I think I’ll buy it.” She snatched it out of my hands.
I was too stunned to say anything. This was completely out of character! I didn’t confront her on it for years, when I was finally able to bring it up.
She CLAIMS not to remember!
She CLAIMS that she will give it to me!
Know where it is? In her attic. Right now. For years I toiled and toiled, nearly grating my own fingers to bloody stumps because I had to use one of those flat grater thingys because I had no mouli.
Of course, now that cheese is sold already grated it’s not so much of an issue, but still!
JULIE STOLE MY MOULI!!
I think we’re even for the near drowning now!
*In Hawaiian slang, “Muli” means “bottom” or “bum,” which makes me giggle in a juvenile manner.
After yesterday’s corny joke (get it? “Corny” joke?! Comedy GOLD!), I think today’s “Thursday Doll” should re-inject some much needed class onto this here blog. Therefore, and without further ado, meet Lucille.
Not all Lost Dolls that come through the hideaway are composition. Sometimes a bisque head, a china head, or even a hard plastic will sneak through. Lucille is a china head doll, dating to around 1860 to 1870 – based on her hair style. Just think! She was around during the Civil War! Imagine all the things those blue eyes have seen.
What’s interesting about China Heads is that they do not age. Left untouched, their heads can look as good as they did the day they came out of the factory – except for some wear to their hair. No crazing, though!
Their bodies, however, are a different story. Because of her age, Lucille was a Lost Doll more than once. Sometime along the way she was found by someone else and her original sawdust-stuffed cloth body was replaced (wouldn’t that be nice? “Hmm. I’d like a little less sawdust, please!”). She now had a newer body that was still probably over 50 years old with china limbs, but one of her legs was shattered. Poor thing showed up on my doorstep using a twig as a cane.
A portion of her leg remained, and since I’d never dealt with this sort of problem before I got out my trusty Mighty Putty and tried to duplicate her remaining leg. Fail! Curiously enough, none of the photos of that repair attempt can be found. Ahem.
So! Next best option! I have some antique black kid leather gloves! It just so happened that I had recently seen a similar china head doll whose legs had built in red socks and leather boots with bead buttons. So I sketched a pattern and went to work. Here they are:
It was a bit of a nail biter. In fact, I did what I rarely do and first tried it out in muslin. I only had one black pair of gloves at the time, and hands back then were quite small so there was little leather to work with. Just one shot! But it worked!
Lucille then spotted some fabric I’d just purchased at the Poky garage sales (the town of Pocahontas is briefly mentioned in the book as “Perseverance,” kind of a sister city to Rolfe’s “Reliance”) and asked if she could have it for her dress. As sometimes happens, there wasn’t quite enough, so we chose to use charcoal colored cotton for the bottom ruffle. And to help the dress not look too brand-spanking new, I beat it on a rock and bleached it in the sun a little.
Yessirree, if you drive by my house you may see me doing a number of odd things. Beating dresses, playing fetch with Teddy, dancing with fairies that only I can see…
Finally, we finished her outfit off with a necklace made with tiny coral beads. I had barely tied it around her neck when it was time for her to go. Someone wanted her desperately and right away, there wasn’t even time for a hug goodbye! Somehow Lucille managed to send a note to let us know she was okay.
She wasn’t here long, but her influence remains. Our tea parties are a little more refined, our manners a little better. And corny jokes? Well…
What do you get when you cross a snowman with a vampire?
Sorry, Lucille. We’ll get better, we truly will. Poet! I’m on FIAH!
*Anyone know what song this title references and who sang it? Hmm…..
First off, I would like to apologize. I think the copious amounts of rain we’re getting is my fault. Know why? Because when I finally reached my bat man, my house-proofer of bats, he said he would come as soon as there was a few days without rain in the forecast. Ever since – even though Iowa had been in a drought for a year and a half before – we’ve had rain in the forecast. Every three days.
At first I was proud. Behold! I have ended the drought, kind of! But enough’s enough, mate!
Secondly, I would like to close with a joke I made up in celebration for when I was in the giddy euphoria of having finished Hazel Twigg & the Hollyhock Hideaway. Wanna hear it? Here it goes.
Thank you! Thank you! I’m here ’til Thursday! Tip your waitress!
This sometimes thankless task of which I speak is when I was full time selling on ebay before this whole book thing came about, sewing and sewing for dolls, spending ridiculous amounts of time trying to get everything just right. Sometimes a doll would do quite well. Other times, they would go for a song.
It didn’t matter, I could not help myself; I had to continue spending hours, even knowing that it was sometimes all for naught. These girls came to me for help! Who was I to tell them “Nay”?
So, how do you make the path ahead smoother? By fantasizing of course!
Picture it: Antiques Roadshow, and the year is 2113. A woman sits at a round table, her hands nervously clasping and unclasping. The equally nervous appraiser says, “All right, why don’t you show everyone what you brought?”
The woman opens the flaps of an old United States Postal Service (before they went out of business in 2023 (just joking, Julie!)) Priority Mail box, meanwhile the appraiser appears to be physically having to restrain himself from reaching out to assist her, his hands twitching back and forth.
A beautiful doll is unearthed.
The air is full of electricity. There is a pregnant pause. Finally, the appraiser speaks. “When you pulled this precious girl out of the box, I almost fainted with excitement. I wanted our viewers at home and on Mars to experience the same feeling I felt, which is why I had you do it again.”
He gently smoothed the little doll’s dress before continuing, “I won’t toy with you, this is a Ruth original.And the piece de la resistance? You have the actual note the Ruth herself sent along! This is from her black and white Target dollar section note phase. History has it that she really liked this paper so was sparing in her use of it, preferring instead to make grocery lists on it so that she could have beauty in everyday life. These notes hardly ever survived! Because no one knew! And here you are, and you have this note….”
The appraiser paused to wipe a tear from his eye – although he pretended to be blotting his brow. He fooled no one. “I have to know, where did you get her and how much did you pay?”
There was a gasp along with a lot of heads shaking in disbelief from the crowd that had gathered at a respectable distance behind the little table.
The appraiser breaks protocol, addressing the crowd. “It’s a shame, isn’t it? Don’t you wish you could go back in time and buy a dozen?”
The crowd fervently nods while the woman flushes with even greater pleasure, grateful that her ancestor had been so very wise.
The moral of the story is, you have to believe in yourself.
As I’ve mentioned time and time again, it took several versions to get to “Hazel Twigg & the Hollyhock Hideaway.” It first started out as my beloved dolls with names and stories written for them.
Then it was decided that I should write an entire book instead. I had in my mind a sweet and old-fashioned book, kind of along the lines of Johnny Gruelle’s Raggedy Ann stories.
It wasn’t until around version seven or eight that it was decided that there needed to be a bad guy. “A bad guy?” I exclaimed, lifting myself out of the hearts and flowers from which I’d been writing.
“A bad guy,” my brothers insisted.
“All righty then,” I said. And instantly, it popped into my head: A Creature in a Basement.
And I had fun! So much fun. It’s fun to write less than savory characters! With a little dark humor thrown in for good measure. I was cackling like a madwoman as I wrote!
That creature has since morphed into two humans, who have themselves morphed from one little chapter to being regular characters throughout, but as with all my writing I try to base it on Things I Have Known. So here is the true story from whence Smith & Jones (the working names that stuck) sprang:
There is a creature in my basement!
I was down there stomping on empty detergent containers for recycling when I heard a strange chirruping noise coming from under the basement stairs. Was it my imagination? I froze and quickly left.
For sometime afterwards, whenever I had to do laundry I would take my cat Elsie with me as a shield. Whether I planned to throw her at whatever it was as an unwilling projectile or set her loose to “attack,” I don’t know, but I would have been gentle. I heard nothing.
I continued hearing nothing and finally decided that it must have been my imagination. So there I was, cheerfully sorting laundry and singing selections from “Fiddler on the Roof” as I am wont to do, when suddenly I had accompaniment to my singing!
NOT my imagination! I’d been right the whole time! That was little comfort to me as I raced back up the stairs, wondering if it would register to me what the creature was just before it came flying at my forehead to gnaw at my brain!
I was at the end of my rope. My house was shrinking: I was no longer able to go to the attic (bats), and now the basement was off limits too. But then one morning as I came stumbling down the stairs in increasingly dirty clothes, the mystery was solved.
It was still dark and a movement on the landing caught my eye. What was that? FUR?! FEATHERS?!! My worst nightmare was coming true! It was a creature like nothing I had ever beheld!
Once I calmed myself and realized that I couldn’t stay upstairs forever, I flipped on the light and ventured closer, determined to find out once and for all what fanged creature had been haunting my dreams.
It was…a FROG. Covered with dust and lint! Apparently gathered from its journey into the house. Ahem. Clearly I need to sweep more often.
In my defense, I looked up “frog in the basement” on the internet, and it does happen! To other people too!
And therein lies the germ of an idea that eventually morphed into Smith and Jones.
I later found a second frog! Jones! I released him into the wild, by the creek. I hope he and Smith found each other…
As I look at recent photos of myself, it occurs to me that it’s a pity that we cannot always pick the time and place for things. I am not one to put myself out there, and now I must! But it’s for something I believe in with all my heart.
Still! I have been sewing for almost as long as I can remember. Why not then?
And look! Here’s young Hazel! With the red hair and everything! Why not then?
Why not when one can look glamorous doing ordinary things?
Then again, sometimes even back then I looked practically ready for a rest home:
So perhaps I will accept things as they are. Besides, there’s always Nina…
As you may or may not know, Thursday is usually doll day here at the ol’ cork board. And it is! It will be! But first! My debut!
It went very well! I got to talk about my love for Iowa, how this journey began and bats. It was very therapeutic. I am not alone in my fear although I think I can safely say I am still the scardiest cat.
Then I read – out loud and in public! – the prologue and first chapter of my book. No one left or started reading other books (and being in the library, there were hundreds if not thousands around) or fell asleep so…success!
I was a teensy bit disappointed that Colin Firth wasn’t there, but other than that it was perfect.
So now we just have a little space and I’ve decided to therefore introduce a little doll to fill it.
This poor wee thing! Take note: when you hear a tiny knock at your door make sure you look all around before s-l-o-w-l-y opening it. This diminutive darling was knocked off her pins when my screen door was opened as I simultaneously asked out loud who was there. Thank goodness I happened to look down before stepping out onto the porch, it could have been disastrous!
To make up for it, I made a more than usual elaborate gown with lots of hand beading. She was completely bald, so I made a tiny wig for her with a hank of mohair that I curled with toothpicks and I sewed seed pearls into that too.
Her entire outfit is linen and silk, but she deserved it after the knocking down she’d received when arriving on my doorstep for help! You wouldn’t think it to look at her, but she only spoke German so we never learned what her actual name was. Therefore we called her “Leisl.”
She wasn’t here for long, even with the hand beading. Love is love, and I’m sure that she’s a happy member of someone’s dollhouse somewhere.
When you’re a child, sometimes it can feel like a longed-for event will never actually arrive. Whether it’s Christmas or the first day of school or the last day of school or that huge trip to Disneyland you’ve been planning for months. Will it ever, ever actually get here?
One of my fondest memories is being awoken by my Mother singing,
This is the day we’ve waited for!
Always a treat we have in store!
And I would wake up in an instant, full of bliss, knowing: The Day had finally arrived! With my Dad’s love of theater and music, there was broadway:
Light the candles!
Get the ice out!
Roll the rugs up!
And the excitement would be ratcheted up that much more.
So to the sleeping citizens of Reliance I lightly sing to you whether you know it or not, because today for me is a celebration: It’s my baby’s debut into the world. Not Adam, the other one: Hazel Twigg & the Hollyhock Hideaway.
Whether it’s to three people or 11, I’ll be introducing my book and some of my dolls this morning at 10:00 o’clock at the Rolfe Library.
To me it’s The Beginning and I am so excited that last night I had a hard time getting to sleep. Aren’t I silly? Why, yes I am!
And it’s far from the first of the year
I know that this very minute has history in it
Wish me luck! Or, as they say on Broadway, “Break a leg!”
Riders are the sometimes ridiculous lists of things celebrities request for their appearances. Things like (the following are actual examples):
“She requires all furniture be removed from the rooms and replaced with her own pieces that she has shipped in.”
“20 international phone lines in the room as well as special white and pink roses that must have the stems cut to six inches.”
“a personal chef, acupuncturist and an on-site dry-cleaner.”
“You know what would be really nice? If you could make this room look less like a typical rock & roll dressing room and more sort of… Interesting? Are you with me? Just let someone loose with a little bit of flair…”
“One monitor man who speaks English and is not afraid of death.”
“Seven dwarves, dressed up as those dwarves out of that marvelous Walt Disney film…”
Apparently, when you become a celebrity it goes to your head a tiny bit. Do not worry, Little People! I shall not let my celebrity go to my head!
It’s fun to think about, however. What would YOU ask for if you could be a poop and demand anything you wanted?
Huh. It occurs to me that all my requests are food related. Allrighty, then! I would like an aerobics instructor to take me for walks around the English moors – OR the cornfields of Iowa, I’m not picky. His first name must be Colin and his last name must be Firth and he must dress like this:
See? Completely down to earth! And you?
Like all modest girls of her day, Sadie is not quite ready for a full introduction. But I cannot put her off any longer, she at least wants to casually meet you. So here she is:
I have toiled and toiled over her, and there’s still so much to do! Alas, last Friday I was felled by a mysterious ailment. I suspect Nargles!
I wasn’t able to do anything but groan until Sunday, at which time I worked some more on the art for “Hazel Twigg & the Hollyhock Hideaway.”
No, no! You flatter me! Not the drawings themselves! Apparently, my drawing skills are getting worse!
You be the judge.
Here’s another version of a drawing for the current book by me (it won’t give anything away):
And here’s Nina’s, pre-color:
But! They let me help with the back and forth, where I can say, “No, that’s not quite what I had in mind. How can I make it clearer? Did you not see my sketch?”
Well. One does what one can. In the meantime, back to work. I have an appearance – a public appearance mind you! Not the usual kind where it’s just me appearing for myself in my house (to great applause, I might add) – come Wednesday! My public awaits! In the Rolfe public library! Which seems just the place!
I’m working on my rider. You don’t know what a rider is? Well, you’ll find out.
Oh, how you’ll find out…