Dad’s Doll: A Short Story

Madison Meeron is a Senior at Hope College majoring in Theatre and minoring in Communication. She began her performance career at the ripe age of 3 when she and her grandmother would act out “The Wizard of Oz” beginning to end. Madison was always Dorothy and her ninety four year old Grandma miraculously portrayed every other character! Since then, Madison has been adamant about making art and storytelling. She particularly likes to tell stories from her own life because she believes her life is filled with enticing tales, however, she is working to develop her writing skills in areas other than creative nonfiction. She finds writing to be reflective and cathartic. Madison uses writing to help make sense of her life’s most turbulent and treasured moments. She learns a little more about herself every time she picks up her pen. 

Dad’s Doll

Have you ever loved too much? It’s like when you spread the whole avocado on your toast and end up with more green sludge than bread and your breakfast would have tasted just as good — no, better — if you only used half of the avocado. I’m used to spreading it on too thick, spreading on love too thick. I think I learned how to love too much from being loved too much. Or being loved in a way that makes words of affirmation like, “You are my world” feel like worship. 

What smells remind you of love? The coat of axe body spray that your seventh grade boyfriend used to disguise the sweet pea scent that your best friend wore? The smell of a dozen dolls dusted with aromas of baby powder and childhood innocence? Since sometimes we lose the ones we love, I long to recall the smells,  James’ Jameson coated breath the night we slipped into a sultry slumber, Mom’s red wine lips that whine about me growing up too fast, the stench of  a stale human when he’s waited too long to shower. Some scents still slip up my nasal cavity effortlessly while others burn little holes in my nose as if they are the cocaine I swore I’d never try. I think my nose would be less stuffy if I got it all out. 

I think my life and yours will make more sense if we analyze the scents. (See what I did there?) 

The scent of chicken grilling next to chalk-coated cement reminds me of family dinners. A table set for 4, or 34. You see, I am an only child with 30 siblings. At least that is what my dad would tell you. I guess I lost my siblings when I lost my imagination. The smell of plastic skulls still remains in my brain. Who knew the kiss placed on a plastic head could be more passionate than the kiss bestowed upon a wife? It  started at age three, the doll obsession that entranced Daddy and me. I even suspected that I was part doll. 

I had this thing for always picking the toys in the back of the shelf  that I thought no one wanted. If there was a perfect teddy bear next to a bear with a bent ear, I wanted the sad one. Dad taught me that all of the toys deserve loving. He used to tell me this story about how he and my mom went to the doll hospital and toy soldier store, and they saw me in this cobweb covered box reaching, pleading for someone to buy me. My bent up box was right next to dazzling dolls enclosed in boxes with perfect 90 degree angles. But like me, my dad had a thing for picking the toys in the back of the shelf. My dad dusted the dirt from my plastic shield, bought me, and knew that I would always be his favorite doll! I came to realize I am not part doll; however, I don’t think my dad ever came to realize that the dolls are not part human. I’m going to stop calling them dolls now, my dad wouldn’t like that I have been. We call these plastic friends The Children. 

The Children were my childhood and my dad’s adulthood. Each one had its own personality. Giant was obsessed with food, Boy was obsessed with girls, and Bubba was obsessed with beating me at everything. I think the role-play is when I found my love for plays. We would play and play with The Children. We played “alligator,” a game where I had to detach my pillow raft from the bed boat and rescue The Children from being eaten by the alligator-infested carpet. We had boxing tournaments. My dad would manipulate the dolls’ bodies to lightly punch and kick me as I attempted to punch and kick harder. Sometimes the plastic arm would hit too hard and I would cry to my mom about getting hurt. Mom would get mad at Dad and I thought it was funny, until it wasn’t.  Mom would get mad at Dad when he brought the dolls to restaurants, too. It’s kind of ironic bringing a male doll named Boy into a Big-Boy but, my dad insisted. Boy would always hit on the hostesses and I loved it! Until I hit the age of 16 and Dad was still begging to bring Bubba into Bubba Gump Shrimp. I don’t know why some of the dolls’ names are restaurant names but I’m rolling with it. I think the dolls are part of the reason my mom left my dad. I mean how would you like having happy hour with your friends interrupted by your husband hollering about The Children wanting some wine, too?

Cognitive dissonance clouds my mind in regards to my dad and the ways we played. He harbored my imagination and taught me the art of storytelling. I owe the smiles of my childhood to him, but I look back on certain memories in disgust and as an adult I ask myself, “Why?” Our relationship rode a fine line. One side of the line is adorned with the words adorable, fantasy, fun, but the other side of the line is hung with ornaments of obsession. Obsessive, compulsive, delusional Dad. He used to floss my teeth for me. We played dentist and he’d hang a long strand of dental floss from my two front teeth. I’d just let it dangle, impeding my speech. We called this silly bit “big tooth”. Now I floss my teeth every night to remind myself of the days when the play was nothing but fun and games. 

What smells remind you of love? A dozen dolls dusted with aromas of baby powder and childhood innocence? The Axe body spray that your boyfriend coats on like a winter jacket? Or is it the minty floss your parents used to keep your baby teeth cavity-free? I’ll keep recalling the smells for the memories that are worth re-remembering. 

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