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Dot heard it first, the distant and rapid tattooing of a drum. We had just opened our windows for the first time since winter began and there it was: Boom-boom!! boomboomboomboomboomboom BOOM!
Hearing that beat I was instantly transported to my childhood. I grew up on the north shore of Oahu, a horse field away from the Polynesian Cultural Center. We used to walk there and get coconut ice cream cones. At night I would lay in bed, listening to the distant music of the shows they put on featuring different Polynesian islands. You could always tell when there was a Tahitian dance going on by the fast and energetic beating of those drums…
Thus begins the description for O.L.D. (Once-Loved Doll) No. 121 Tahiti! The Tahitian dancer. You can see her adoption page HERE.
I have a confession to make: I’m all kinds of confused about Polynesia and Hawaii and the relationship between the two. The reason is this: growing up in a small town on the the island of Oahu, every May 1st was a big deal. It was May Day! As you may or may not know, May Day is Lei Day in Hawaii.
For weeks before hand all through elementary school we small kids would prepare, painting stripes on to paper and then cutting them up into strips for our skirts if we were going to represent the Maoris that year, or hula skirts out of coconut tree fronds and leis that would last through the day long celebration if we were going to be hula dancers, and working on said dances to present to the King and Queen of the festival. There were seven cultures in all: Fijian, Samoan, Tahitian, Maori, Hawaii, and, um, two more I can’t think of right now. To this day I can vociferously shout a Maori war chant at the drop of a hat, complete with waggling tongue! Sadly, no one ever asks…
Also, there are seven islands that make up Hawaii so that must be where all these different cultures come from, right? After all, we had native Fijians, and Samoans, etc., right in our school! But no. Some of those are from someplace called Polynesia. Huh? No matter! Wherever these islands and cultures are, they’re near and dear to my heart.
So it’s odd that I never thought of doing a Tahitian dancer before this. Once I got the idea, there was NO STOPPING ME.
I was fortunate to find just the right candidate: It was an 18″ Effanbee Anne Shirley with brown eyes and somewhat deeper than usual toned skin, once she was cleaned. Anne Shirley’s have very nicely detailed stomachs and waists and I love using them for my costumed dolls. Luckily, this girl was also wearing a thick acrylic replacement wig, so I didn’t feel badly taking it off. I found a human-sized, human hair wiglet. I stripped it down to the wefts and sewed them to a new skull cap I’d made just for her.
My sister-in-law Suzanne had out of the blue sent me a box of odds and ends after she’d tidied up her craft room. One of those odds was a bag full of feathers. How fortuitous!
My Dad always loved his Hawaiian shirts and wore them throughout the rest of his life. So when I found a fabric that greatly reminded me of one of his shirts, a sort of tiki brown and white pattern, I had to sneak it somewhere into Tahiti’s outfit. I put it at the back of her headdress and used it for the strap that attaches it to her head:
You know what’s tricky? Sewing seashells to fabric. Turns out, because of their curved nature seashells cannot be sewn with needles. Instead, fishing twine must be used. Only fishing twine is sturdy enough to push through the contours of each and every unique shell. Unfortunately, it’s not sturdy enough to push through fabric. So sewing shells onto Tahiti’s headdress and belt required threading the needle with twine, sewing the twine up through the fabric, removing the needle, pushing it through the shell, putting the needle back on to push back through the fabric, repeat. For each and every shell. This is why this girl took me a little longer.
The “Kukui nut” necklace is made from large dark brown glass beads with smaller wooden beads in between. The grass skirt is made from a human size hula skirt. I split the strands for a finer texture. The tassels are embroidery floss. Her “undies,” also known as a bathing suit bottom, were made from one of Julie’s halter tops from her wilder days.
From the thrumming drums that were the lullaby of my youth, to the feathers from Suzanne and the halter top from Julie, to the fabric that reminds me so strongly of my Dad, this girl has the story of my family woven all the way through. It’s been such a joy to work on her.
In the meantime, Poison Ivy was adopted by…Janey J. of Oakland, California! Though we’ve never actually met, Janey J. is quickly becoming like family herself! Janey also has Leilani, my Hawaiian hula girl.
And with that, I leave you! Mahalo! You’re my favorite.
Who says, “blondes can’t hula!”? Not me! Having been raised for a significant part of my childhood in Hawaii, I know whereof I speak. My mother told me that all the Hoale (pron. “How-lee,” meaning non-Hawaiian, namely white) women who gave birth to little girls over there would name them “Leilani.” In fact, my wee sister Julie was almost given that name when she was born, but with all the Leilanis running around, my mother just couldn’t do it. However! The little mother of this little girl saw fit to do so….
Thus begins the description of O.L.D. (Once-Loved Doll) No. 50, Leilani. You can see her adoption page HERE.
No way could I let a significant number like 50 pass without a love note to the place where I spent half my childhood: Hawaii, the 50th state! We grew up on the north shore of Oahu in a little town called Laie (Lah-EE-ah). The beach was just down the street. I was baptized in the ocean! We had a breadfruit tree in our backyard, coconut trees and plumeria trees in our front, and wearing shoes to school was an option. Our own future Mayor was born there!
So when this little girl sashayed her way in and told me that her name was Leilani, I didn’t bat an eye. Of course it was! Perfect.
There was a lot of hula-ing going on these past few weeks as I hand-knotted Leilani’s grass skirt with raffia from The Dollar Tree. Her lei and headdress are felt flowers. It took some doing to get her lei to hang. I had to add little weights just so.
You may have noticed I’ve been missing for awhile. I have! Things are humming along, and not just with my dog walking gigs. A month or so ago I was giving a presentation to the children’s summer reading program about Hazel Twigg & the Hollyhock Hideaway. We met down the hall in the community center as the library was occupied by a ladies meeting. I talked about the three things I love that are in this story: old dolls, magic, and my own tiny town in the middle-of-nowhere, Iowa.
Well, wouldn’t you know? That very day a Media Specialist for the Education Service Units (ESU) in Nebraska happened to be passing through Rolfe and was hanging out at the library to use the internet. She heard the ladies and the librarian at the meeting talking about me and my book, and now I’m going to be a keynote speaker at a workshop for school and public libraries in Nebraska on September 30th! KISMET.
This is exactly the kind of thing we need. What better way to spread the word about a book than librarians? How nifty that things came together the way they did!
In the meantime, I have a lot of catching up to do with doll adoptions.
In addition to Leilani, I put a new girl up for adoption last night and there is still so much to do for her. Not only that, I’m going to attempt to turn right around and get another doll up for adoption this Sunday. I’ll be burning the midnight oil! This is what happens when you stop to do other things. Orphans start piling up, clamoring for attention!
Now for some more catching up: No. 48, Cassie, was adopted by Michelle E. of Colorado! Yes, THAT Michelle!
And No. 49, Andrea, was adopted by Barbara E. of Mississippi! A new face!
Thank you so much, Michelle and Barbara! This is belated, but you are very much appreciated and cheers to you both.
And with that, I leave you! ALOHA and happy Thursday, you’re my favorite.