Ragged Dolls and Strong Stories

“We cannot live without meaning, that would preclude any sense of identity, any hope, any future.”
– Carlina Rinaldi –

She was the stuff of nightmares.
The doll that was given to my daughter on her first birthday.
The doll that became the focus of my child’s affection.
Dragged through the dirt, chewed up by the hound, forgotten in the cold, she went through a transformation from a sweet child’s toy to a grotesque, creepy, Chucky doll with no hair and one eye.
And yet she was O-so-loved.
Loved so much by my daughter that if the doll went missing the household went into panic mode.
The doll cannot be lost.
She must be found!

I recall a moment when my daughter tenderly swaddled this doll in her favourite blanket.
She took her time to ensure the anatomy that was once the doll’s face would poke out so the doll could ‘breathe’.
I was watching her with bemused fascination.
She stood up and walked up to me, cradling the doll, and announced with a sort of queen-like benevolent tone,
“You may hold my doll!”
And I did.
I held it with the utmost care and mimicked her adoration.
If my child loved this doll, I shall love this doll, no ifs, no buts, no argument…

Years later I reflect on this story with another lens.
A lens that has taught me that life is an exercise in meaning-making.
Something is valuable to us because we give it meaning – we make it valuable.
Social norms, of course, have a large influence on shaping our meaning-making.
However, when all is said and done, life holds meaning for us because we ‘make’ it so.

I look back and think about that doll.
That broken doll that held a part of my child’s heart.
We thought of it as amusing and ugly
She saw it as beautiful and worthy of love…
Who was right?

She was, of course!

It was her doll – not ours.
She was the expert of her doll-loving story.
It was not our job to force her to see the doll the way we saw it.
That would be a form of dominating and abusing our parental powers in forcing her to make the doll and her relationship with it ‘meaningless’.

That ragged doll holds many lessons
Lessons about love
Lessons about beauty
Lessons about meaning
Lessons about power

That doll was one of my child’s strong stories.
She had doll-loving superpowers.
Something that as ‘enlightened’ adults we totally missed…
She accessed her skills of love and wonder
While we wondered what she was seeing…

Every day you will encounter people.
Every one of those people has a doll story
A strong meaning-making story…
Tread carefully with that person’s story…
For it is not yours or mine to change or shame or deny …
It is their strong story
Part of a precious map that holds their meaning to life, hopes, and dreams…

If you are invited in, invited to a sacred story-telling moment, hold it very gently…

There is a heart wrapped around that moment.

“It is not our purpose to become each other;
it is to recognise each other, to learn to see the other and
honour them for what they are.”
– Hermann Hesse –

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