The Cloth Covered Book and The Dead Doll

There was a book that belonged to my father that always sat on the coffee table in our living room as I grew up.  We were never allowed to touch this book.  To me, it was a beautiful book.  There was a cloth cover on it that had the name of the book hand embroidered on it.  To touch this book always brought forth a huge lecture from dad.  I never quite understood why we were not allowed to read from it and of course, this was just one more of the rules that I paid no attention to.  I remember taking this book to my bedroom and devouring the stories in it.  In addition to the short stories, there was a section on poetry.  I’ve never liked poetry, but there was one poem that became quite significant to me.

I can remember vividly when I first read this poem.  It was the summer before I began fifth grade.  For some reason, this seemed to be the summer that I spent as much time as possible reading.  I spent many an afternoon at our public library reading.  It was that summer when I read the book written by Dale Evans Rogers, Angel Unaware.  This was the story of the child born to Roy and Dale Rogers who was a Downs Syndrome baby. I don’t think I even knew what this medical condition was, but I knew it was something that was not good in the eyes of many. The child’s name was Robin and this child, who I had never met, made a huge impression on my life. Dale had written this book through Robin’s eyes and the love that Robin supposedly felt for her family filled my heart.  If you have not read this book, it will make your heart happy to do so. Anyway, back to the cloth-covered book that had the lifelong impact in my life.  I remember coming home after spending the day at the library finishing Angel Unaware.  I remember lying my in bed thinking about this child and I wondered how this child, who so many claimed was damaged, could bring so much love to a family.  I wondered how Robin could garner love and I, who certainly had no terrible medical problems, couldn’t get my Daddy to love me.  It was with these feelings of inadequacy that I read the following poem.

The Dead Doll
Margaret Thomson Janvier (Margaret Vandegrift) (1845–1913)
You needn’t be trying to comfort me—I tell you my dolly is dead!
There’s no use in saying she isn’t, with a crack like that in her head.
It’s just like you said it wouldn’t hurt much to have my tooth out, that day;
And then, when the man ’most pulled my head off, you hadn’t a word to say.
And I guess you must think I’m a baby, when you say you can mend it with glue:
As if I didn’t know better than that! Why, just suppose it was you?
You might make her look all mended—but what do I care for looks?
Why, glue’s for chairs and tables, and toys and the backs of books!
My dolly! my own little daughter! Oh, but it’s the awfullest crack!
It just makes me sick to think of the sound when her poor head went whack
Against that horrible brass thing that holds up the little shelf.
Now, Nursey, what makes you remind me? I know that I did it myself!
I think you must be crazy—you’ll get her another head!
What good would forty heads do her? I tell you my dolly is dead!
And to think I hadn’t quite finished her elegant new spring hat!
And I took a sweet ribbon of hers last night to tie on that horrid cat!
When my mamma gave me that ribbon—I was playing out in the yard—
She said to me, most expressly, “Here’s a ribbon for Hildegarde.”
And I went and put it on Tabby, and Hildegarde saw me do it;
But I said to myself, “Oh, never mind, I don’t believe she knew it!”
But I know that she knew it now, and I just believe, I do,
That her poor little heart was broken, and so her head broke too.
Oh, my baby! my little baby! I wish my head had been hit!
For I’ve hit it over and over, and it hasn’t cracked a bit.
But since the darling is dead, she ’ll want to be buried, of course:
We will take my little wagon, Nurse, and you shall be the horse;
And I ’ll walk behind and cry, and we ’ll put her in this, you see—
This dear little box—and we’ll bury her there out under the maple-tree.
And papa will make me a tombstone, like the one he made for my bird;
And he’ll put what I tell him on it—yes, every single word!
I shall say: “Here lies Hildegarde, a beautiful doll, who is dead;
She died of a broken heart, and a dreadful crack in her head.”

I have never understood why this poem has always stood out in my mind, but have always known that there was something about it that would have a great impact upon my life.  I read it a couple of months ago to my therapist and asked her what she thought and why it had such meaning to me. (One of these days I will stop asking her “why” because she never tells me the “why” to anything.  She always makes me come up with my own “why”.  GRRR…. It would be so much easier for her to just tell me.  But, I guess that would kind of ruin the idea of therapy, wouldn’t it?)  After thinking about it for a bit (and wiping away the tears that always come when I read it), I searched my own heart for the meaning.  This is what I came up with….

I knew, even at the age of 10, that there were some things in the world that couldn’t be fixed.  There are some things that happen that can break your heart and once that heart is broken, it is never the same again. I realized way back then that my heart had been broken by the loss of trust I felt for my dad and knew that nothing could mend my broken heart.  All the trips, all the normal things, all the words — none of those things could undo what had been done to me.  I was a broken child and that broken child would live with me in my heart for the rest of my life. Just like Hildegarde, no matter what the true cause of my death may be, underneath that reason will be the fact that I had really died of a broken heart.

THOUGHTS ABOUT MY THOUGHTS:  I will never understand why the things that happened in my life happened.  But, even knowing that, I still search for the answers.  That search is hell.  I so want to come to a point in my life when “acceptance” overrides “search”.  I pray to God for wisdom and for acceptance, but have not yet been granted this.  I know that there is a reason for that.  I guess that just like my therapist, God wants me to stop asking “Why” and to just have faith.  I’m trying, God.  I’m trying, God. I’m trying.

TODAY’S FEELINGS BAROMETER:  My body is tired.  My mind is swirling. I slept most of the day.  I’m still wondering why.

~~~ Betty

 

Author: alightatthetopofthehole

A mother, a grandmother, a retired teacher, a sister, a daughter, a friend, and a troubled soul. A woman working on understanding her depression and finally overcoming the feelings of inadequacy, emptiness, failure, and not being whole.

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