Sunday, February 03, 2013

Never quite finished

I didn't hear the knock at the door, or feel the icy wind as it opened. I was preoccupied.

Inside the warmth of my home office, I was hunched over the desk working feverishly on birthing a baby.

Fabric, stuffing and yarn were all I required, but this new creation wasn't without pain or blood, as I continually pricked my inexpert fingers trying to secure the yarn wig to the baby doll's noggin.

“How many does that make,” asked my dad, as he stood in my mudroom and released his no-legged little dog. Lately he's been dropping by to let my furry niece have tucker-herself-out play dates with her slightly, older, minutely wiser cousin.

“Five,” I said with an audible sigh. “Each one slightly worse than the next.”

“Maybe I should have gotten you that Cabbage Patch Doll you said you would never want in a million years,” he laughed.

The hounds barreled past me, chasing each other's tails, diving over chairs and under tables, upending some of the less substantial furnishings, and rousting the cat in their race toward the kitchen.

I barely registered the commotion.

I was obsessed.

Five Waldorf-style dolls, all of relatively similar size, shape and coloring, sat on my desk in various states of finish. Some had hair and homemade clothes. Others were still waiting to have their arms and legs attached. Only their naked, expressionless faces still waited for features.

I had intended to make one – for a neighbor's child, who is having her first birthday party – almost on a whim. I had also intended to fail in that endeavor and buy a “real toy” at a toy store before the big day.

But somehow the first one didn't look half bad. … And then I realized giving her away would be like giving away my firstborn. …

So I had to make another. … And like any mother who experiences the true joy of childbirth, wants to experience it again.

But there was a rub.

My success in making these dolls look like dolls and not sad, lumpy pillows that had sprouted pointy, lopsided appendages did not sharpen my confidence in finishing them.

One misplaced stitch would likely put a look of snark on her otherwise cherubic face. Whatever the expression my needle and floss would provide, I imagined, would certainly take away the mystery.

I waved my father away.

“I'm not ready for visitors just yet. Why don't you go and brew yourself a cup of coffee. I'll be out in a minute.”

One more pass of the sewing machine over a plait of yarn and the last doll would at least have hair if not a hair-raising expression.

My father banged around in the kitchen a bit as the dogs banged around the living room.

I had done as much as I had nerves to do. I joined him in the kitchen, brewed myself a cup of coffee and stood amid the clammer of dogs.

“Finished?” he asked.

“I don't know how to finish,” I said a little too abruptly. … “It's crazy, but I'm afraid of messing them up.”

“All parents are. ... All parents are.”

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