I made the announcement at eleven. I told my mother, “I’m not playing with dolls any more.”
I didn’t expect her measured response, “Yes, that’s probably a good idea.”
I don’t know why that startled me. Did I expect my mom to actually be sentimental about my dolls, their motor homes, shoes, dresses, furniture, and dramas scattered all over the living room floor?
But I think I did hear a little twinge when she added, “You are getting bigger.” I’d outgrown dolls, and it signaled a change for both of us.
* * *
Frida came as a big surprise. My husband gave her to me for my birthday one year. She is made by the painter Marsha Moore Hughes, another colleague of my husband who taught painting at Tulsa University. When my husband and I went to the opening of a faculty exhibit, my husband pointed to the Frida piece, telling me she was mine! I couldn’t wait for the exhibit to come down so I could take her home. She is not to be played with but stands on the top shelf of a bookcase in our living room where she surveys all from her perch.
She reminds me a bit of Hughes in her facial features. As a female painter, the connection Hughes might feel with the Mexican painter is obvious. And maybe subconscious since the details of Frida’s face are there, her unibrow and moustache. The blushing cheeks and round face remind me of Hughes, though. And those are the eyes I remember welcoming us to art department parties Hughes would host at her home.
I didn’t need to make up a life and loves for her. I’d read her biography, seen a documentary about her. Appropriately, female decorative arts merge in her making as she is sewn together, hand-painted, and stuffed. She wears her traditional dress that looks like it was fun to paint using bright colors, patterns, and splashes of paint. The skulls on her Día de los Muertos necklace look positively chipper.
* * *
I have Fibromyalgia, and today was painful. I wanted to cry at the grocery store. Frida may have had Fibromyalgia, too. Certainly, she had pain from her accident and the procedures to repair the damage. Pain that amplified upon itself. The other day, I read that more nerve endings have been found in the hands of women with Fibromyalgia. Like weeds growing. The amplification isn’t in our heads.
But this Frida can fly when she needs to. No pain.
When my husband gave her to me, I didn’t have Fibromyalgia, I didn’t live in a border town where Frida would cross by train, I didn’t know I may have some Taíno ancestry, which has links to ancient South American indigenous people. I didn’t live in a culture where it’s considered very strange not to have children. I think I am growing into having my Frida doll.
Excuse me–it’s time for a tea party.