I preferred spiders to dolls until I was a girl of eleven years old, when the first glossy American Girl doll catalogue showed up in our mailbox. Our hilltop house had a huge swooping roof, and black widow spiders who nested amid rocks in our yard. I would sit on a ledge of boulders and stare down into the cottony webs, jealous of the sleek spiders with their long glossy legs and how they conjured respect and fear in my cruel classmates, who I feared far more than any venomous spider.
I was an outsider. My generically Protestant family had moved to a small Mormon town in Utah smack dab at the beginning of sixth grade. A tall, gawking fat girl, and a religious outsider at that, I was an easy target for my peers. I wore new bruises, physical and emotional, home at the end of each school day.
On Christmas morning I unwrapped the burgundy Pleasant Company box. Kirsten’s tight blonde braids and blue eyes shone even brighter than in the catalogue photo I’d pressed to my cheek for many nights prior, wishing out the window on every star. It doesn’t get much more outsider than being a brave immigrant, so Kirsten was a sympathetic ear for my troubles. Day after day I poured my troubles out to her. I carried her into the desert behind our house, and talked to her over sage cakes and juniper berry tarts.
I dressed Kirsten in new outfits my mom had sewn, and saved my allowance week after week until I could order each new accessory kit. I cried into her shiny hair as we moved to the Midwest and I endured more (and more complicated and grown-up) bullying. I entered painful adolescence and Kirsten’s joints loosened and her hair frizzed. Her soft body gathered stains. I loved her.
I was eighteen when I moved into a cramped house full of other misfit young adults, and a few short months later I moved out and into a college dorm. It was during this move that the burgundy box, now quite worn, was stolen. I never saw my Kirsten, or many of her accessories or outfits my mother had sewn her, again.
Years of bullying behind me, I took solid root into my present and shot into the future determined to live with a sensitive, compassionate heart. I received a replacement Kirsten one year as a Christmas gift, but she could not replace the Kirsten I had loved during my formative years.
I have a small daughter now. She is sensitive and beautiful, and I want for her to have an easier time of things than I did. I’ve wanted to take the Fröken Skicklig e-course for quite some time now but cannot afford it. If I win this contest for a spot in the January e-course, I’ll stitch up the softest, kindest doll for Alice to carry into her childhood – though I think the doll carries the child, as a bridge does, bearing her over the treacherous spaces with grace.
Thank you for the chance to win.