Thursday, August 23, 2007

LITTLE MISS NO NAME (correction to earlier post)

(Photo by Liza Cowan, copyright hers)

Liza Cowan wrote me regarding my Poor Pitiful Pearl essay of 20 August 2007 below to say she didn't believe the doll my father brought me could have been a Poor Pitiful Pearl doll because she did not have a teardrop affixed to her cheek. She also knew they were quite expensive even back then. Liza owns a few of these dolls -- they were designed by William Stieg, and she intends to do a William Stieg exhibit at her gallery, Pine Street Art Works. She sent me this poster she's created for her exhibit, and the minute I looked at it, I realized it wasn't the doll I remembered.

Liza is seldom wrong, especially about matters of art and pop culture.

I plunged into research. I knew something about William Stieg -- his radical class politics, his long career as a cover artist for The New Yorker, his famous children's book Shrek (read the original, folks, don't rely on the movie). The Poor Pitiful Pearl doll was big at the time of my birthday as indicated, but...

I have a diary for the years 1964-1968. I kept it sporadically, and at times it is in code, but it's been immensely useful for verifying what occurred to me and my family during that terrible period. However, there was no entry for my birthday that particular year.

Finally, an extensive Google search turned up another doll from the same era named Little Miss No Name. When I found a photo, I had a visceral reaction -- That was it. Teardrop, rags, and the entire air of downtrodden poverty.

So, I correct the name here, but not the memory. And, in fact, the doll I did get was even worse, both in appearance and moniker, than Poor Pitiful Pearl. Did I unconsciously "upgrade" the memory?

Re-reading my diary also stirred up another set of memories about dolls, gender, gay identity, and child abuse. It's sparked a new essay, which will be forthcoming.

Stay tuned.


shadocat said...

Maggie--Don't hit me (metaphorically)but I thought the "Pearl" reference referred to you! Let me explain; as you know, I am the mother of a Megan, which is the Scot version of Margaret, which of course is also part of the Maggie, Meg, etc.connection. When I was naming her, I was very into name meanings, (as well as numerology--yeah, don't get me started) Anyway, Margaret has 2 meanings; 3 if you count Margaurite, which in French, also means a daisy...Margaret means "gift from God". It also means "a pearl".(But no way are you pitifull).

Maggie Jochild said...

You're right, Shado, that I was aware of "pearl" being the meaning of Margaret. But I didn't expect anyone else to know that! For me, it's part of the fun of the slang term for Lesbian, pearldiver.

And, to continue that inside joke, I'll share here one of my favorite poems, published in
Borderlands Texas Poetry Review, No. 17, Fall/Winter 2001:


A bag of perfect pearl onions
dropped into boiling water,
scooped out three minutes later
to be popped free of their skins,
glistening, leaving my fingertips
pink from the heat and
can be the start of anything,
spring concoctions with
creamer potatoes, nubbin carrots,
curries, or oh yes a bechamel,
bechamel bechamel mucho

There are many ways to dive for pearls.
I know them all.

© Maggie Jochild, written 22 March 2001, 2:55 a.m.

little gator said...

Again with the onion fetish, huh?

My real last name, in old English, meant "little swamp." I've lived next to little swamps for most of my life.

That photo of you holding a little dog and stanidng next to Bill-are you wearing the birthday dress?

Maggie Jochild said...

Little Gator, good eye -- no, it's not the starting school dress (it's actually a shorts outfit), but it was sewn by my mother, from red plaid. I do have a school photo of me in the blue gingham 7th grade dress, but it's not scanned in. And, frankly, I have a hard time looking at it. I'll see if I can fire up the scanner, though. There's other things I need to get in digital form, as well.

I do have a bit of an onion fetish! One of Mama's favorite treats was to slice red onions very, very thin and stack them between two slices of pumpernickel spread with butter. I've now helped raise two children who screamed in protest if there was any detectable onion in their food. (sigh)

The little dog was named Chico. And I don't know if you can tell, but my other hand is around Bill's back and being clasped by his hand, on the far side of him. Every photo I have of just the two of us as children, we are in contact. I have such strong memories of the smell of his buzzed hair, the loose clasp of his grubby palms, and the weight of him in my lap which is where he sought colace when troubled as a baby and boy.

little gator said...

I thought it was plaid and not gingham, and i wasn't sure if it had shorts or a skirt.

I had nigthmares about Little Miss No Name last night. All I remember was big black empty eye sockets and vague menace.

The empty sockets were actually less creepy than her eyes in the photo.

If you want to see pthetic, tyhere are few on ebay. Including one that's totally nekkid with its hair hacked short.

Maggie Jochild said...

Little Gator, I read somewhere on the web that girls who received this doll were so upset by her that they tended to try to make her look better -- i.e., new clothes, peeling the teardrop off her cheek, and cutting her hair. Which is why "mint" condition version of her are hard to find. Pathetic, huh?

Dolls are disturbing in a way stuffed animals are not. At least, from my biased viewpoint.

little gator said...

The weird thingis that her hair was the only thing she had that was nice and non=-pathetic.

I liek the way that doll is so real it's thought to be extremely valuable and the good ones on ebay are getting $20 bids.

As a kid I only had one doll I called about-the Tiny Tears. My mother said it could cry and pee but I was never allowed to use these feautures as "it would make a mess." With severe depression, an emotionally abusive husband and 7 kids, we were forbidden many kinds of fun that she knew would never get cleaned up.

She got better after she left my father. And was surprised that all 7 of us, now grown up, approved.

I had a raggedy Ann but rag dolls are almost stuffies.

And a huge collection of nonbio critters(short for nonbiological-they hate being called stuffed, stuffies, or biologically impaired.) "Plushie" is fine if it applies.

My first memory has been verified by my mother as being Christmas when I was 2 and a half, 3 days before my next sister was born.

I was walkign down the hall from the boys' room which had a pink bedspread ont he bed. I knew that didn't make sense but untill the girls outnumbered the boys the bedrooms were differenlty arranged and i did sleep in the room I grew up thinking of as the boys' room.

I was wearing nothing but a diaper and was looking down at my body, very pleased with how tall I was. Probably the last time I ever felt tall.

Then their was a girl I remember looked just like Marybeth, who was not yet born. But Chris was about 5 then, and those tow did look alike.

I remember two things Santa had brought.
One was a useful and pretty but boring stepstool for us kids to use to reach the bathroom sink and was not given to me. The other was Tiger, the first nonbio critter I remember.

This next bit is speculation:
They kept telling me he was a leopard, but I *knew* orange and black big cats were tigers, so the silly grownups compromised by calling him "Tiger the Leopard" as if it was silly or something.

Most of the family called him Tiger the leopard, but he was always just Tiger to me. Though now I know he had spots, not stripes. His markings are all loved off now anyway.

When I was 10 a friend who was moving away gave me a bunch of her toys including a Barbie. It was a relief to have a Barbie so the neighbor girls had to stop teasing me about not having one. BUt I almost never played with it and didn;t even care that its head kept falling off. A family friend gave me a bride doll(eurgh) around then that was just big enough that it couldn't fit into Barbies clothes. Not that i tried more than once.

little gator said...

scuse me-"so rare" not "so real"

And onions make me sick.

Maggie Jochild said...

Little Gator, I too had a Tiny Tears and a Raggedy Ann. The latter was reduced to molecules by my father's birddog. The former -- well, I'll save that for the doll essay I'm working on. But you'll find it particularly interesting, given something you said.

I'll try to remember "nonbio" or "plushies" from now on.

"Plushie" makes me think of -- well, when my godson was 5 and I was babysitting him, I let him sit up past his bedtime and watch Letterman with me (regular TV was usually forbidden). A yound male guest on the show commented that "such and such gave me a chubby", which my godson immediately zeroed in on -- not just the audience reaction, but also, I'm sure, the fact that I turned the TV off immediately. He kept asking me at odd intervals after that, "Aunt Maggie, what's a chubby?" But it just wasn't time in his life for that information yet.

little gator said...

Just remember Fnordy is a masochist and enjoys being insulted. You call call Fnordy *anything*.

This triggered another memory. I was toilet trained late, as were most of us, cause we just weren't interested. MY mother tried to bribe me with "big girl pretty underpants"-almost as thick as a diaper and *blue gingham*! I was totally not interested. They looked just as bulky as diapers and were ugly besides.

So I always say, if you wanna bribe a kid, offer something the kid wants.