In a box of dolls somewhere, there is a redheaded boy Cabbage Patch Kid that belonged to my sister. He was never her favorite -- that honor was reserved for Birthday Baby, the bald Cabbage Patch she received for her second birthday -- and so at some point he ended up packed up with my remaining dolls when I got ready to leave for college. I remembered the redheaded doll a few weeks ago and thought he'd be perfect for Nico. My sister gave the okay to hand him down, so I made a note to track him down as soon as I had a chance. I had convinced myself that the box of dolls had made its way into our attic, and climbed up there this evening to find it after Nico babbled happily at a photo of a baby in one of his books and it reminded me of the baby doll I'd meant to find for him. I didn't see the box (and am now hoping like hell that it didn't get misplaced in the course of several purges and moves since I last saw it), but I did rediscover a box of sentimental childhood stuff that I stuck up there when I was cleaning up the house pre-Nico.
And in that box was what must be my oldest surviving doll. It's a typical genderless baby doll but used to be dressed as a boy, blond and blue-eyed, made of soft rubber with fully rotating arm and leg joints so that he can be moved into many different poses, somehow more realistically floppy than I remember. He was supposed to be a drink and wet type of doll, but there was always something amiss with his works, and the water that went into his tiny pursed mouth never made it into his little cloth diaper. I loved him anyway. My mom bought him for me as a big sister gift. Memory is a faulty thing, especially when we're talking about a memory from 23 years ago. My instinct is to say he was my gift for when my sister came home, and that I remember Mom giving me the doll outside my preschool. But my sister was born in October of 1986 and didn't get placed for adoption until December, and I was in Kindergarten by then. It's a strange feeling when your personal mythology has holes in it, for certain.
Wherever it happened, whichever year, I have a very fuzzy but specific memory of Mom picking me up from school in her pale green Impala and pulling the doll out of the trunk, still in his big box with the crackly cellophane window. Was that this doll? It almost had to be. I rarely got "just because" gifts, and never anything so luxurious as a brand new baby doll, so that's probably why I remember it. I'm pretty sure he was my favorite. His white-blond hair used to lie straight and smooth against his scalp, but when my sister was a toddler, she latched onto this doll and dragged him around by his hair every day while I was at school. At some point, she also drew all over him with a red Sharpie, and there are still a few marks left. When I got him, I named him after my best friend at school, a boy. In a strange coincidence, that boy's name was the same as MB's middle name, which is also Nico's middle name.
After hesitating for only a moment, I pulled the doll out of the box in the attic and carried him down to Nico's room. Possibly he won't survive Nico's childhood, but he survived me and my sister, and leaving him in a dusty tub of old diaries and mementos seemed a bit of a waste. After a hasty baby-wipe bath, divested of the dusty baby shirt I dressed him in when I was in high school and felt bad about his long-lost original outfit, I set him on Nico's bookshelf. Nico gave the little naked baby a few glances and then moved on to something else, but it still felt right to pass the doll that welcomed my sister home on to my own child. Maybe he'll be Nico's favorite, too.