When Katie was a little girl, my sister-in-law, Cheri, gave her some Barbie dolls; we added to her collection over the years, with new dolls and Barbie clothes, so Katie had quite a few of them. Katie was a girl who loved Barbies (and later, to my horror, Bratz dolls). I did not enjoy playing with dolls when I was young. I loved my stuffed animals much more than dolls, and Barbie did absolutely nothing for me. All of those tiny little pieces; the clothes that never seemed to fit; the velcro that didn't close when you dressed her, and the arms that wouldn't bend, making changing her clothes so difficult. It was frustrating to me, and (since I was a tomboy, and not into clothes, hair or makeup) not very interesting. But Katie loved her Barbies, and even dictated a story or two that featured Barbie, when she was too small to write.
When I learned that our niece Andrea was expecting a baby, I thought it would be good to pass the Barbie dolls back to her side of the family. The problem is that I had to go to Katie's room and start going through her things to get them. I am not ready to clear out Katie's things; I'm not. But the Barbies' day had come, so I went to work on them.
I went to Katie's window seat, which has two cupboards under it; in each cupboard, there is a drawer that slides all of the way out. Those drawers had some of Barbie's things in them. I also found a plastic bin that had Barbie shoes and clothes in it. So I started to put the things in a bag for Cheri.
I came across a purse...and then the memories started to roll. After we found out that Katie was going to die, there were about two weeks when she could still walk, before her legs became paralyzed. On one of those days, she packed a purse full of Barbie and Bratz dolls, and I drove her to her friend Colleen's house (down the street). She had so much fun with Colleen that she stayed past the time for her next dose of medicines, so I drove back down the street, administered the meds, and left her to play for a while longer. I was so happy that they were having fun together; I didn't want to spoil it!
Yesterday, I found that purse, still filled with dolls that Katie had dressed with her own hands, and enjoyed playing with, during the last month of her life. Did I want to give those away? Could I do it? What would I do with them if I kept them? Would I ever play with another little girl, doing my best to dress & play make-believe with these Barbies?
I got kind of sad at that point, and decided to keep a few of them for sentimental reasons, and give the rest to Cheri. The funny thing is, I really don't like Barbies, and my dislike of them is what got me through giving most of them away! I thought, NAH! These things are a PAIN! Let them go. So I did let most of them go, but I kept a few to savor, because they are things that Katie enjoyed, played with, and handled.
The high point of the process was that I found a love note that a boy had written to Katie, hidden in the bin with the Barbie items.
Also written on the outside of it were the words, "Don't show this letter to anyone," and to my knowledge, she didn't. In the spirit of her discretion, I have covered up the name of the boy who wrote it.
It makes me smile to remember that she was a girl who could inspire such devotion, before she had even reached the 6th grade. He wasn't the first- or the last- to fall for her; there was one boy who stole a diamond & ruby necklace from his mom, & gave it to Katie! (I found it in my washing machine, where it had fallen out of Katie's pocket. I returned it, of course. That boy is known as "the jewel thief" in our family folklore.) We knew that Katie had...IT.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, PHIL!