Wendy moved a lot. Not like any kind of body movement, or dancing, or even a walk in the park. She moved her household, her private domain, her pad. And with each move, to each new neighborhood, she lugged around belongings as old as her babyhood.  A caramel mohair Steiff bear from the 1950s, matted and waxy. A wooden baby doll crib on plastic wheels with lambkin decals on the end panels. Cardboard books bound with metal rings written in German about guardian angels and Cinderella. A pale pink music box that once played Brahms' Lullaby with a dirty white ribbon and the missing pink acorn from the pull string.

In her seventies, thinking about the stuff she’d leave behind at her death, she accepted nobody wanted her old things. She had nothing of any real value. Turned out, her stuff was junk that people considered a burden.

“I have this stuffed animal given to me by my great-grandmother when I was a baby,” she said to her son. “Don’t you want it for your grandkids?”

“Mom,” he said, rolling his eyes, “it looks like it’s been in a rainstorm, it’s scratchy and it smells.” He wouldn’t even touch it. “I know it means something to you, but …” He shrugged.

Did it mean anything to her?

She sat in her yellow Barcalounger, the bear in her lap, their bellies touching. She saw her reflection in its beetle black eyes and tried to remember.

The tan bear gave her nothing. She surmised it sat on a shelf, out of reach of her chubby, sticky baby fingers because of its cost. Then, later, it never made it out of packing boxes from one relocation after another, until she brought it out into the light, a dilapidated symbol of an imperfect childhood.

She could sell it, although it wasn’t even that rare. The reseller site had hundreds listed, many in better shape with tags and pamphlets as part of their packages. Why bother with something measured in pennies?

A pink and white teddy bear lived in her marrow. Worn out by love, its fabric soft and smooth from hugs and cuddles, she dragged it about by an arm to countless adventures through cotton candy forests and hanging around monkey bars.

Her children didn’t have any girls. None of them wanted a doll crib. Her own daughter was in her late forties. She played with the crib when she was a child, tucking the cloth dolls that Wendy had sewn by hand under patchwork quilts and white crocheted blankets. Her daughter kept the doll that looked like her, big brown eyes and mink colored hair.

Wendy ran her fingers along the wood of the crib and stroked her skin. They seemed the same to her, dry and cracked from use in various climes, lacking luster and sheen.

It was possible she had kept these things of her past in the hopes that they would have some value and purpose still. She was afraid that they spoke of her own lack of value to those who still knew she existed.

The books broke her heart. She loved them and mourned them.

She lamented the loss of her Winnie the Pooh set of story books. They fit in her small hands and she understood Eeyore, his woe-be-gone face matched her moods even as a toddler. He was her dark mascot, the shade side of her inner self, that struggled to hide away in a corner as a shield from the psychic pain to her nature.

Struwwelpeter’s punishments made her laugh. While no one actually cut off her fingers for having dirt under her nails, she understood the intent of the adults in the world. Someone had given her this book to encourage her rebelliousness. That book held such a special fondness for her, that she bought a brand new version when she was in her fifties. It still made her giggle because the bad kids didn’t give a shit if they got beaten or maimed for their misdeeds. Their punishments seemed like an indictment of the randomness of grown up wants and needs. Their bad behavior tickled her rebel heart.

She had caused so much wonderful trouble in her life.

She played gas station in the heat of Georgia's summer, filling the Studebaker’s tank with fine sand while yellow jackets buzzed around her fine blonde curls.

She refused to keep her mouth shut to keep the peace despite knuckles on her lips and wooden spoons on her hips.

She walked like a lumberjack, taking long strides and pounding the pavement in unlady-like fashion as she rushed into a new adventure.

She stared, her xray vision piercing souls. Men and women complained of discomfort as she watched and listened and stored away their tales.

She birthed babies who went into the world with gusto and nerve and a will to conquer all manner of evil.

She lived in sin. She laughed in sin. She loved in sin.

The metal rings bit into the palms of her hands bringing her back to the present, reminding her of the constant pairing of pain and pleasure in her life. She flipped to the page in Aschenputtel (Cinderella based on the Grimm’s Brothers version) with the birds who pecked out the evil step-sisters eyes. They sat upon the shoulders of the redeemed and recognized girl who once slept in the cinders. She sparkled with fairy dust and the glow of justice, proof that there was fairness in the world. Except she knew the lie of the story even back when she first received the book. The moral of the story was that if you behaved, worked hard and suffered the inequities of life, life rewarded you with a prince and a palace. There were no princes and she couldn’t be good, but she still saw a world covered in glitter.

Wendy knew the beautiful music contained inside the box still existed. She heard it, even if no one else looked past its worn and scared exterior to find the treasure inside.

She placed her tattered toys out at the curb and went off to cause some trouble.

October 02, 2020 23:55

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Erika Freidly
19:06 Oct 21, 2020

Listen, if I'm lucky my next kid will be a girl and I will gladly keep the crib and of course I'm keeping my doll. I always loved the real versions of fairy tales. It is the reason my favorite characters are Rapunzel and Elsa. Elsa doesn't need a man to rescue her and Rapunzel just wants adventure. Still your #1 fan!


Vanessa Kilmer
18:15 Nov 20, 2020

Thank you, Erika. I'm your #1 fan, too. And while our conversation inspired this story, it's not nonfiction. lol Well, not all the way, anyway.


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Ru B
21:25 Oct 03, 2020

I don't think of myself as a nostalgic person but your story reminds me of things I'm surprised that I still have from my childhood, like a stuffed rabbit, a baby blanket, a music box. I agree with Wendy that sentimental items are oftentimes junk in other people's eyes and it's only the owners that find value in them because of the evoked memories. Great writing!


Vanessa Kilmer
18:15 Nov 20, 2020

Thank you, Rui.


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Nathalie Hoke
19:46 Oct 03, 2020

You have a wonderful way with words. It's not a sad story, although it is sad to know that no one wants your old stuff. I like Wendy. She's a girl after my own heart.


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