“Baby”, recognizable to others as a Strawberry Shortcake doll, was bought at Walmart one day by my husband. She was on clearance. Ashley was almost a year old when he brought her home. Up to that point, she had never shown any interest in any sort of lovey-type item we bought her, or that was given to her. What it was about the doll I’m not sure, maybe it was the strawberry scent – which almost three years and numerous washes later, is still noticeable. But whatever it was, she latched onto that doll and they were soon inseparable.
Baby has undergone quite the physical transformation from the first day she entered our house. Once upon a time she was dressed in bright white and green pants, with soft flesh toned arms, a bright face and beautiful, silky red hair that hung in waves. Baby looks nothing like that today. Today, Baby has dingy grey pants and arms that no amount of washing can render clean again. She has worn out shoes, a worn out dress, and hair that defies all description, except perhaps to say it is a cross between Medusa and Bob Marley’s dreadlocks.
But, it’s not Baby’s fault, she’s had a very full life. In the almost three years she’s been with us, Baby has been well travelled – she has been to Maine, New Hampshire, Nova Scotia, PEI and all over New Brunswick. She’s been to circuses and fairs, aquariums and zoos, parks and pools. She’s been cried on during times of fear, pain and upset, accompanying Ashley to many medical appointments. She’s comforted Ashley during countless nights of fevers and other illness. She’s been thrown against walls and beaten off floors, during tantrums. She’s been there for every single nap and bedtime. She’s been dropped, stepped on and has caused panic galore when she has been accidentally left behind. She has gone on tractor rides, and has helped dig a garden.
Ashley is as attached to Baby, as she is to her thumb. In fact the two are normally used together. We have put our foot down, and no longer let her take Baby into stores and other places where she may get lost (unless she’s having a bad day). But, in the home at least, Baby is fair game, anytime, anywhere. As Ashley develops increasingly more imagination and pretend play skills, Baby is her doll of choice. Ashley feeds her, kisses her boo-boos, and tucks her into the hand-crafted doll cradle her father made for, using the doll quilt I made. Baby has even been put in time out!
As much as I sometimes feel we should be trying to work towards “weaning” her off Baby, I will not rush this. I know the day will come that Ashley no longer needs her. And on that day, I will pack Baby away in Ashley’s memory box, to be returned to Ashley some day when she is grown up, a tangible memory of all that Baby has been – a playmate and friend, a source of comfort and strength, an ever-faithful companion.