I am eight years old looking in the shop window at all kinds of wonderful things but am captivated by a doll and I’m not a doll kind of kid. I’ve just spent a perfect early summer day playing with my younger brother and sister in the river, Mum and Dad walking and chatting as we played.
Earlier we had leapt across the steeping stones and trudged up the long steep hill for a view of the surrounding countryside. Dad had taken the time to name the wildflowers and birds we saw, just like he had with the tiny fish or butterflies we’d caught in our nets earlier. It was days like this that ingrained my love of nature.
Our energy had been restored after the walk with a picnic. A simple affair because we weren’t a well off family. There was tea out of flasks, egg and tomato or cheese and tomato sandwiches, pork pie and home made fruit scones with jam and butter, all served on an assortment of old crockery.
Days like these were rare because Dad worked six days a week at the colliery. We lived in a colliery house and Mum was a stay-at-home mum. So it was wonderful to spend this kind of time with them both away from the village and the ever lingering smell of coal smoke.
Mum is very surprised that it isn’t the bike, bats and balls or skipping rope that take my fancy, legacy of having three older brothers that aren’t out with us today, but a doll! A last lingering look at the doll and we head back to the car, my mind distracted from her when we stop at the fish pond to watch the koi carp, whilst Dad nips back to the tobacconist for five cigarettes. We make several more trips back to Matlock that summer though I never see my doll in the window again, Dad always pops in next door to buy a few cigarettes whilst we watch the fish.
My December birthday comes and goes and so does Christmas. I’d had some nice presents, mostly homemade, and was content. We were getting ready to sit down to Christmas dinner and I was asked to fetch an extra chair for Nan from my room. There in my room was my doll. I cried, I always cried when I was very happy, I still do!
I am now fifty-something years old, in my bedroom, looking at all kinds of wonderful things but am still captivated by my doll. Her face has had to be redrawn a couple of times and her pink leather boots perished a long time ago, replaced with a close approximation made out of felt, with wool for the laces. She isn’t your standard plastic baby doll, she is a three foot high, rag doll in a purple flowery dress with lace trimming. Ever since the day I saw her she has felt like a friend, someone I could make up stories with. Her dark straw coloured hair in pigtails, tied with purple felt ribbon, is a real dust catcher but I love her still.
A constant by my side that Dad had paid for in instalments whilst supposedly buying cigarettes and sneaked into the car on our last visit to Matlock that summer.