This page features a story by a devoted student of memoir, Bella Grundy By day Bella is a talent agent and over the past two years she has developed her voice as a wonderful writer and storyteller.
Odd Little Doll.
When I was seven, my parents brought a little girl home. She was Four years old and looked like a little play doll. She had blunt-cut hair with blunt-cut short bangs and stood in our living room in a frilly light blue dress with a knit cardigan buttoned only at the neck. Her shoes were shiny black patent leather with white ankle socks folded neatly. She was pretty and a bit ghostly.
She came out of nowhere. Yesterday we were a family of five, and from that day onward, we were a family of six. I guess it was ok because six has always been my favourite lucky hopscotch number.
Her hair was red, and she did not look like any of us. I wondered how I was going to explain her to my friends. She had white eyebrows, so pale they were almost tinged green. They seemed invisible until the noon sun from the window streamed through them. She did not smile that first day. Instead, she just stood still in our living room, tiny, with stiff arms tightly to her sides and her hands in little potato fists.
I thought it was as if she were trying to make herself invisible, like her eyebrows.
My Mother came into the room carrying my Tony the tiger cereal bowl, the one I had sent away for with box tops. It had a peeled orange in it. She sat the girl on a rocking chair, her legs stuck straight out, and you could see the bottom of her shoes, which looked new, except for a little white sticker with the letters CAS on them. Mother put the bowl on her lap, “This is for you,” she said, “I’ll be back in a few minutes,” as she patted the little girl’s head.
The three of us kids just stared at her. She pulled my bowl tightly into herself. I’d never seen anyone gobble food so quickly, she was serious and tidy about it, and down the hatch, it went, barely a noticeable chew.
A furrowed knit developed in the middle of her eyebrows, like my Mother’s does when she gets cross, and that was a bit worrisome.
The girl had delicate features; a tiny mouth, one eye curious and alert, and one slightly heavier-lidded and wary. I noticed a little dent on her forehead, I wondered how she had gotten it. Had someone dropped her like an apple in the shop by mistake, placed it back on the pile, and taken a fresh one?
She seemed even smaller in that chair now.
My Mother came back into the room and led her to the round braided rug, addressing the three of us cheerfully, “Now you have a new sister to play with” My brothers looked at each other, shrugged their shoulders, and in unison said..
“Ya.. ok !”
They dumped their Lincoln logs out of a box my father had made, handing her one as an offering. She sniffed it. My brothers smiled and began building a log fence around her. She sat there with that one open eye and that one wary eye watching them. At that moment, I realized I would no longer be the only girl – and would now have to share my family with this odd little doll.
When I remember back on that first day, I was an odd little doll. Never quite belonging, never quite sure if someone would pick me and tuck me in for keeps, or drop me off again and drive away.
I learned at an early age to trust my ability to read moods and tap into what others were thinking to keep myself protected. I still rely on this deeply sown skill, but sometimes this gift is a burden.
That morning they told me this would be my new family, and I was hoping this one would be better than the last.
My senses were on high alert for clues on keeping myself safe in this strange house. I noticed the exits first. The sound of the front door clicked closed as the social workers left me behind and drove away. In that moment, I swore I could taste my heart in my mouth. I saw an open kitchen door at the end of the hallway. Maybe a man was out there.
I heard a dryer stop and remembered I had snuck a packet of saltine crackers under each armpit at the Children’s aid that morning, in case they didn’t have any food here.
This house seemed quieter than any place I’d been before. No one was running or pounding downstairs, no one was screaming or pushing or slamming. Just soft, like when you are deep and safe in a cushion in the corner of a couch.
There I was in my new clothes and shoes, even though they were tight and hurt my toes, they were the shiniest thing I’d ever seen lined in Robins-egg blue leather. They told me I could keep them. I still have them.
I just stood there in this room, in those shoes, afraid to move. I could feel buzzing bees and drums inside my chest, and the crackers crinkled under my armpits.
The dust particles danced in a sunbeam through the open front window.
I remember seeing my new big sister for the first time, her black curls and chocolate-coloured eyes peering at me over the top of her book. She was staring at my shoes and my hair. I could tell she was thinking something. I wondered if she liked me. It felt like she liked me. Then finally, I saw a glimmer of a smile, and her eyes softened as she sat back on their couch, and I loosened my fists a little.
My new twin brothers were lying on the rug, drawing buildings on a sketch pad. They smiled at me with matching braces and began constructing a great castle around me, calmly chattering about moats and bridges. I took a breath, surveyed the matching furniture, and relaxed my lips as my tongue found a strand of orange clinging to a tooth.
My new Mother came in with a freshly folded stack of white sheets with tiny rose buds and led me to my new room.
If you would like to read another story by Bella, click on the title to read the story, “Like a Kid at the Candy Store.”