"Ida was always my favorite," my mom says whenever the subject comes up. "I remember she had dark hair and it was up on top." Mom always tells me about her beloved "A Dozen Cousins" paper dolls the same way, with the same smile and the same words. "There was a Fred too, I remember." I've been hearing about Ida and Fred and the rest of their family my whole life. And then: "I always thought that was the sweetest idea for paper dolls: All the cousins all different ages." And finally, and here you may imagine me mouthing the words sitcom-style along with her as she says them: "I wonder if kids still play with paper dolls? Boy, your aunt Laurie and I used to! For HOURS. We'd make extra clothes for them too. Mom would let us cut up the Sears catalog for the pictures. . . ."
I spent years trying to find a set of these old paper dolls for her. The one time I saw a listing for them on eBay, the bidding reached $200 by auction's end. They're never at the flea market. I've only seen a few mentions of them online. Luck was with me recently, though, when I found an online seller with an uncut set of the dolls. Fiiiiiinally! For less than Mike and I usually pay for a pizza, dark-haired Ida and Fred and all the rest of the cousins were on their way here and will soon be an early Mother's Day present.
And they are sweet, indeed, and so "Mom." My mother has three brothers and three sisters and grew up with many cousins in her daily life, as well, so I've always understood that part of her affinity for these dolls, but now I can see why she loved them even beyond that. Such darling details in these old illustrations.
Like mother, like daughter: I would happily wear just about any of the dolls' clothes. I am honestly surprised, now that I see them, that Mom never embroidered a red-threaded "Valerie" onto the fronts of my undershirts when I was a kid.
I get to go home to visit my family this weekend, ♥ and the surprise paper dolls are part of my goody bag for Mom. It is an informal tradition that when Mom, Aunt Laurie, and I get together, we exchange what Louisa May Alcott in Little Women called "bundles": Sometimes notes we didn't have time to mail pre-visit, flower seeds in the springtime, small tins of cookies, usually notecards and stickers for all our letters to each other, almost always silk flowers from Aunt Laurie, small handmade scrapbooks, thrift shop finds of vintage linens and tea cups and coffee mugs, sometimes a framed photo from a past visit for them from me, tiny bottles of cake decors and sprinkling sugars for cookies. . . .Both Mom's and Aunt Laurie's presents this visit includes gnomes, of course, and toadstool-shaped pencil sharpeners from Target's dollar bins.
While Mom's little gifts are blue and red, Aunt Laurie's are aqua and green, as is also tradition. The grocery store sells these 50¢ paper lunch bags in different colors, and I find myself buying them over and over again for small gifts. Aunt Laurie's got jazzed up with "her" gnomes and frogs this time.
I was supposed to go home yesterday but have been battling a cold all week and didn't feel good enough for the trip yet. Hopefully, by the time I see everyone this weekend, I'll be able to enjoy it more--and laugh with Aunt Laurie over her frog-prince without falling into a coughing fit. :)
Here's to family, dear Ida and Fred and all the rest included. ♥