Posted by: suekenney | July 29, 2011

Playing with Paper Dolls – at My Age!

My family had to move our mom to a nursing home for her own health and safety.  Now, to pay for said nursing home, her house needs to be sold.  Which consequently means that almost sixty years worth of STUFF has to be hoed out and disposed of, one way or another.  And since both Mom and Dad were of the Major-Packraticus genus, there’s a lot of stuff to go through.

It was decided, because of my own interest in family history, that I would take charge of the mounds of genealogical material in the house.  Trust me, there’s more than enough there to fill up our 9×10 spare room and then some!  So it’s coming to my house in little bits at a time.

On my last trip to the house, one of the things I found on top of a pile was a  manila envelope containing several figures that had been cut out from magazines or catalogs.  Doesn’t sound like much, does it?  Hit the trash can, boys!

But not these – not for anything!  These were human figures – mostly women, but a few men and children – that my grandmother (as I understand the history) cut out when she was a young girl, to be used as paper dolls.  She played with them; my mother and her sisters played with them; and I and my sisters played with them.  Ah, the memories!  Beautiful ladies in long sweeping Victorian or Edwardian gowns.  Most were in black and white or graytones, but a few were in color, and a few others had been carefully tinted by my grandmother (or maybe the next generation) with colored pencils.

And she named them!  Maybe not all, but several of them, and each named persona had several changes of outfit – Sunday best, casual indoor dress, formal outerwear – for which she had cut out another figure.  There were Queen Isabella (see above)…Princess Kari…Countess Caroline…Lady Jane Gray… and many more…mostly titled, but there were a few commoners in the bunch.

I remember playing with these – when I was older, of course, and could be trusted not to cut them or stuff them in a hole in the floor or feed them to the family dog.  It was a fascinating way to connect with my grandmother, to try to imagine her as a starry-eyed young girl who had romantic notions about the nobility.  She still had some of those romantic notions as a white-haired grandmother, but kept them more in check.

Princess Mayblossom

And now – with my grandmother dead almost 20 years – it’s still a way to connect – to remember her.  I will definitely keep these paper dolls, try to find a way to display them without taking up too much room.  Though they’ve aged well, they are obviously getting fragile, and “playing” with them is not a good option.  But one can still look at them and dream…


  1. How time flies! I wish your mother keep happy and healthy.

  2. This is really touching.

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