Goodbye Shirley

Shirley Temple Black’s passing touches my heart. Not only was she an inspiration for little girls everywhere who wanted to sing and dance, she was amazingly talented at her young age. Her movies offered an escape from the dark times during the depression era. She became a Hollywood and cultural icon and then, as an adult, became an ambassador. And they named a drink after her that gave children an opportunity to feel special when they went out for dinner with their family. No one can say she wasn’t amazing.

As a testament to her lasting impact on our culture, I had a Shirley Temple doll when I was little – in the 70’s. I loved her corkscrew curls and her smile, always her smile. She came to me with a cute little polka dot dress. I probably played with her for endless hours pretending she was singing ‘Animal Crackers in my Soup’ and ‘On the Good Ship Lollipop’ and dancing along.

My Grandmother loved to sew and she fostered my love of Shirley and dolls to come by making clothes for her. I don’t think I appreciated the talent she had in making complicated tiny clothes to offer Shirley a broad and diverse wardrobe. Shirley had pajamas, fancy dresses, coats, and casual wear – occasionally with a matching outfit for me.

My mom has carried on that tradition, lovingly making beautiful clothes for my daughter’s dolls. ‘Big Baby’ has jackets, pajamas, overalls, and fancy dresses. Her twin dolls, ‘Amelia’ and ‘Jackson’ have clothes she’s made as well – showing us that we’ve moved beyond Ken dolls and realized that boy babies exist in our world. My daughter has loved those babies and those clothes her whole 10.5 years and will likely continue to care for them her whole life – even if  she doesn’t play with them as she moves into her teenage years and becomes an adult. She’ll come back to them and remember her Nana’s love, just as I remember my Grandma’s.

I can sew – as my mother taught me, and continues to teach me – and I’ve occasionally ventured into doll clothes. I’m not nearly as patient or talented as my mom or Grandma, but one day I hope to be. I will continue to practice and hone my skills as I make clothes for friend’s children, getting to a smaller and smaller scale. American Girl dolls are fun, the wardrobes little girls amass are amazing (and expensive), but nothing will be as cherished and valued as the clothes made with a grandmother’s love.

I can only hope that I’ll be around to lovingly make clothes for my own grandchildren. I hope that my daughter (and son) will offer the clothes they’ve been given for their dolls to their children to play with and dress up their own dolls. I believe dolls are meant to be played with, not stuck on a shelf somewhere only to be viewed and not touched. For both boys and girls, I believe having a doll gives them an opportunity to learn how to gently care for another being – translating to the humans in their lives.

Thank you Mom and Grandma for these precious gifts and memories.

A sample of the many clothes my Grandma made for my Shirley Temple doll

A sample of the many clothes my Grandma made for my Shirley Temple doll

One thought on “Goodbye Shirley

  1. Beautifully written, Karyn. Believe it or not, I too have a doll outfit made by my Grandma for my “Bride Doll”. Always wanted L to have it so we’ll have to see if it’s still relevant. I always marvel at all the tiny tiny hand-work.

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