Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Best Thing

My family calls me Maribeth. It’s one word with an i. My mother chose that spelling.

When I was five or so, I got a baby doll for Christmas. She is the best thing.

Baby Doll−that was my dad’s pet name for me.

That baby doll must have been a very special purchase. I’ve never seen a doll anything like it. I still haven’t. It’s the size, shape, and weight of a real baby. I named her Elizabeth. I liked the letter z.

When I was five, she was all my arms could hold. My mom gave me my own baby clothes to dress my doll in. I can still touch the feeling of amazement to think of myself in the dress my doll was wearing. I played with her everyday.

I remember sitting Elizabeth in her high chair where the sunlight streamed in my bedroom window. We’d think together about the dust motes in the sunbeams. We’d wonder whether they came from the sun to us on that ray. I liked the word ray. So did she. We’d look through the sunlight out the window to the trees and the river past the back yard. We both had a thing for trees.

I taught her which was foot was her right and which was her left. I even wrote R and L on the bottom of her feet in blue ink so that she wouldn’t forget. I’d hold her and rock her back and forth to watch her glass eyes with those black eyelashes open and close. It was fun to do that and her eyes were blue like my own. We’d hug each other every day.

We would listen to music on my record player and I would sing songs for her. I was always there for her. She was always there for me. Toys and dolls are good that way.

When I went to college, I took her with me. It wasn’t a sentimental blankie thing. It was a practical decision. I figured if I didn’t keep an eye on her, Elizabeth just might just get lost somewhere in the shuffle. It wasn’t a bad decision. Other things from my childhood got lost−things I wish I still had. She even had the starring role of the baby in one of our theater productions, after Alice took my hand and walked me into Wonderland.

It’s a funny thing that I named that doll Elizabeth. You see. I think I was eight or nine and pretty much had quit playing with her, before I knew that my real name was Mari Elizabeth. I was thrilled to find out I had a name that had the letter z.

I was in college before I realized that my baby doll who wore my baby clothes had the same name as me.

My mother had known . . . my mother−who had lost a 9-day-old girl baby, three years before I was born.

My mother called me Maribeth. My father called me Baby Doll. I called my baby doll Elizabeth.

I still have that baby doll, Elizabeth. It still wears my baby dress. On it’s feet you can still see a faded L and R.

The sun still carries dust motes on sunbeams when it shines.

Right before she died, my mom said I was the best thing that happened to her.
−me strauss Letting me be

12 comments:

Cheryl said...

Speechless as usual - but this one was really special.
My vocabulary fails me and I want to say "Aww".

michael said...

Toys are wonderful things, aren't they? I still wish I had my Lionel train set. Sadly, the innocence ends for all of us at some point.
Your Mom didn't write an R & L on the soles of your feet, did she?
This was lovingly written with an eye on detail that makes me smile.
Dust motes are things of wonder...
Marvelous, Liz.
Be back tonight for some more archive mining. ;)

~Michael

ME Strauss said...

Hello Cheryl,
Awws is a very good word. Thank you for always being there. You are a wonder for always being there.

ME Strauss said...

Hi Micael,
Yeah, toys are pretty special things. The are the center of the work of childhood. In this case of helping me figure who I was.

No worries. my mom didn't write on Mthe soles my feet. I can take full credit for that invention.

I really didn't know dust most were everywhere at that time. I thought they were only in the sun rays.

zilla said...

Intentional or not, this was (another) lovely tribute to your mom. She so often seems to be lurking throughout your work, keeping a watchful eye, perhaps, whether you mention her directly or not.

Nuts! I can't remember my favorite baby doll's name anymore! She wore a pink gingham dress with smocking on the bodice. I'm afraid she also ended up wearing a bit of crooked eye-liner -- in medium Bic blue. Tsk. Always "improving" things, even the perfect ones.

Cool post, LiZzz

ME Strauss said...

Hey, Zzzzilla,
Now you know one more reason why you are special to me. Now I know another, child beautian armed with bic pen. Guess we have ink improvements in common also. That is so very cool.

From My Pen said...

This was wonderful to read. I love the smooth easy way you write and feelings just cross your pages.
I am so glad someone else hung on and took with them their doll. I still have my Teddy Bear made of straw and matting of a sort. He will be 63 this Christmas and my Dollie well she will turn 53, I wrote her name on her Undies, why I don't know, but she is called Suzie Q and she was a beautiful Bride Doll, now she is simply my treasure to pass on to a Daughter on day. Thanks for the stroll down a wonderful memory lane, its nice to know they never end. :)

ME Strauss said...

Hello from my pen,
Thank you for sharing your memories of Teddy and Susie Q with me. Memories are such precious commodities. The are the substance and stuff of a life. It's so nice you have a daughter to give them to. One day maybe I'll give Elizabeth to my son's future wife. If he ever finds her . . .

bradford said...

I cried, my mom's name is Elizabeth, she is 84, but she needs surgery and is having trouble healing - your story is a healing ray for me - thanks

ME Strauss said...

Oh Bradford,
I'm am thinking of you and your mother. My hopes are with you always.
Liz

Erin Monahan said...

This is probably the most evocative piece of introspective prose I've read in, well... I don't know when. It's gorgeous, so personal and honest.

Thank you for sharing it. I'm glad Cheryl recommended you!

ME Strauss said...

Thank you Erin,
That Cheryl, she's a wonder. I appreciate you coming by to read what I wrote. It's nice to meet a friend of Cheryl's and to have here. Stay as long as you like.