Sewing dolls and mending hearts

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(Amanda should beware reading this while at work and should have tissues handy.)

Ever since my grandmother passed away on December 20th, I’ve been sad about it and I miss her. At the same time though, I know that her quality of life wasn’t as great as it once had been. I still remember that back when she was in her 80s she would still go up to the second floor of her house, open the windows on the landing and crawl out on to the roof to shovel the snow off. She only stopped when people started threatening to tell my uncle what she was doing because we were all horrified at the thought of her out on that slippery roof (thank god it wasn’t too steep at least!), pushing snow over the side like it was no big deal. To go from that kind of autonomy and a home of her own to living in a nursing home where she couldn’t always remember things, was a big change.

I’m also old enough to know that it’s sad for all of us who are still alive because we miss her but that it’s not as sad from her side of things because at 92 years old, she had lived a very full life. She had seen incredible changes in the world, both her own world and the larger one around her. On top of that, though the suddenness of her passing was hard to bear because we didn’t get a chance to say goodbye, I know that it meant she didn’t suffer from a long illness. In fact, on December 19th she had gone out for lunch with some cousins. She had a great lunch, was alert and happy, and they gave her a gliding rocker to put in her room. She was thrilled with the new chair and when my mother called her that evening, she was sitting in it to watch her hockey game and was quite enthused about it all. Knowing she had a wonderful last day in her life makes it easier for me.

All of that is lost on a four year old who understands just enough to know that death is final but not enough to grasp the smaller details like I did.

Hayley is an incredibly sensitive child and she has taken the loss of my grandmother – her “Aggie” – very, very hard. She still cries a lot about it, more than even I did. She talks about her a lot, wants to remember stories and the house she lived in, and she asks a lot of questions about why she had to die, where she is, and what it’s like there. The questions have been hard on me, not because they make me sad but because they pushed me to examine my own faith and beliefs and I’m not sure of the answers, but I do the best that I can. Still, she gets very sad about it. The other night she had dinner at George’s parents’ house and his mom told me completely out of the blue, Hayley broke down into heaving sobs, crying that she missed Aggie. It’s heartbreaking.

Hayley knows that George gets paid on Friday so she usually asks him for something on Thursday night or on Friday morning. He usually gets what she asks for because it’s never anything big. Sometimes it’s a candy treat, other times it’s something from the Dollar Store. Last week she asked for a pair of binoculars (“binocliers” she would say) from there, and she asked if he could find her an “Aggie Doll”. He said he’d try but he came home with a little girl doll instead for the time being because they didn’t have anything suitable.

Most kids want Barbies or those hideous Bratz, or little babies. There isn’t exactly a huge market for senior citizen dolls. I’m sure you could find some if you looked hard enough but I didn’t think we’d have much luck finding something that could pass for an Aggie Doll.

So cue the Internet, and Google, and a pattern for dolls made from a pair of socks. Friday night I should have gone to bed early since we were having the party on Saturday, or I could have done some quiet cleaning while the kids were sleeping. Instead, I got a pair of George’s socks, ripped apart a ruined throw pillow for stuffing, and threaded my needles. I stayed up until after 1 am, sewing up the body for the doll. With the addition of some blue buttons for eyes, a beige button for a nose, red yarn for a mouth, white yarn for hair, and a few clothes, by yesterday it was finally done.

Aggie Doll

The pants are actually a pair of purple baby tights that Breanna outgrew, with the feet cut off and a few stitches in the back to make them fit. The sweater comes from a bear that my sister bought for Hayley; she loves the bear but always took the sweater off, and it was just the right size. The socks are also outgrown baby socks.

I’ve never really done any sewing. I can mend a ripped seam, though my stitches are messy and I can sew a button onto something, but beyond that, the last time I sewed anything was when I was 14 years old in high school Home Economics class. All things considered, I’m proud of the job I did. It’s not perfect but it’s a first attempt. And Hayley loves it.

Hayley and her Aggie doll

Maybe it will help her a little to have her very own handmade Aggie Doll. I hope so.

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12 thoughts on “Sewing dolls and mending hearts

  1. Amanda

    Well, I didn’t heed your warning and read it at work anyway, mostly out of curiosity. It didn’t make me actually *cry*, but I got a little teary-eyed. It’s like you said – WE know that Nanny’s quality of life had seriously dwindled and WE know that she had a good, long life. But the thought of Hayley in so much pain over it… Well, THAT breaks my heart. Give her a hug from Auntie Amanda, will ya?

  2. Kristyn

    I feel so bad for Hayley and also for you. It is so hard when they are so heartbroken and there is nothing you can do to fix it. My niece was almost 3 when my mom died. I held it together at the funeral pretty well until she lost it. She did not like everyone filing past the caket looking at her because “Gamma don’t feel well” (that’s how we explained it to her while my mom was sick). I hope Hayley finds peace with her Aggie doll.

  3. april

    You are an awesome mom. There is no doubt that your grandmother is incredibly proud of how you are able to pick up what she passed on to you.

  4. Allison

    I hit submit too soon, but I wanted to add that I lost my grandma in 2001. She was 79… I was 25… I wish someone would’ve made me an aggie doll… there are days now where it might help. 🙂

  5. kim

    wow, that is awesome! the doll turned out great, and what a great idea for Hayley to help her deal with Aggie’s death. I smell an idea for an internet business aimed at moms with little kids, sherry!

  6. Kimmie

    This is the first time I’ve ever read your blog… I read your comment on Jessica’s blog about her doll and it brought me here.

    What a lovely doll. I’m so sorry about your grandmother. Hayley’s smile seems to say it all — what an awesome mom you are! 😀

  7. KYouell

    I stumbled over here from the comment you left on Kerflop and am so glad I did. I think this is a fantastic idea. I’m 41 years old and still a bit raw about losing my grandma when I was 15. I’ve been through so much that I would like to talk to her about. You could sell *me* one of those dolls! If you decide to make it a business, don’t forget to market to the grown-ups.

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