I first met Patty Sue on Christmas Day 1959; she came to me in the form of a very large gift standing upright by our fireplace. I eagerly tore the wrappings off and beheld this gorgeous doll looking out at me from her protective box.
Patty Sue was 36″ tall with brown hair and deep blue eyes that opened and closed. She was made of thick rigid plastic and wore the same size as a normal three-year old. She didn’t walk or talk, she just stood there, if you balanced her just so on her little black shoes. So I stood beside her, likely only a foot taller, and admired her for awhile.
Her legs swivelled at the hips so I could sit her down with her legs stuck out in front of her. I think I did sit her on a chair and sat beside her for awhile. Her arms rotated, too, so her clothes could be changed. Mom scrounged up a few toddler’s clothes and we got her into a different outfit, which isn’t the easiest with someone so unbendable.
Perhaps my Aunt & Uncle (Mom & Dad F who were raising me) thought that Patty Sue would be like a little sister to me, since she was about the size of my sister Donna (being raised by my Mom & Dad V.) I realize now they must have put out a pretty penny to buy her – and they weren’t at all well-to-do. I know they meant well and wanted me to be pleased with this new playmate.
So I played with her some; maybe we had a tea party, then I got her back into her arrival outfit. But there really wasn’t much else I could do with her; I could hardly have taken her in my arms and cuddled her or carried her around. So then, because Patty Sue was a special doll and shouldn’t get dirty, we wrapped her in a blanket and put her in the closet.
I did get her out on occasion and played with her some over the years, but there just wasn’t much I could do with a doll that size until I was much older and didn’t play with dolls anymore. It’s a shame – shame on me! – that she spent so many years stuck in a closet wrapped in a blanket.
As near as I remember, Patty Sue was the only doll I ever had. Before she came I had a home-made stuffed toy: a white cotton bunny made up of just two pieces, front and back. He looked like a snowman with rabbit ears, decorated with the embroidered outline of paws and a vest – which I could colour with a crayon. When he got dirty Mom would wash him and all his colour would disappear so I could colour him something different. I loved that rabbit dearly.
I also received books of cut-out paper dolls during those years. My friend Ellen and I – and on occasion my sister Donna and I – played with these for hours on end. All the while poor Patty Sue was banished to the closet. Which is where I last saw her when I was leaving home at sixteen; I have no idea what happened to her after that.
I guess I failed her – and maybe my parents, too, by not enjoying the beautiful gift they gave me. I don’t remember them complaining, though. Not like they did later about some of the other gifts I wanted so much and then barely played with. (I was a queer child.)
I do have this one consolation: I don’t remember asking for a doll that Christmas. Consequently Patty Sue was a minor guilt trip for me. Other things I asked for, begged for even, and then never played with…
Well that’s another post. ☺