While I was at my parents' house, I asked if there were any boxes or bins of my stuff I could sort through in hopes of getting rid of some clutter.
There were two plastic bins of dolls, stuffed animals and doll clothes. It was weird seeing all my old dolls that have been stored for so many years. Some of them had been kept because they were originally my mom's toys and they had significance to her. I think we were keeping them because we thought some day I'd pass them on to my own kids and, after looking at them in their sad state, I decided this would not be the case. There are a few in good enough condition to be played with and my mom will keep them out so her grandkids can play with them when they come to Grandma's House.
Many of the old dolls were coming apart. One, that must be over 50 years old, was breaking down so that it's plastic skin had a greasy film on it. One had a burn on its leg (ask my brother). And some were saved only because they had been made by a relative, including one that always scared me a little.
Then I found my plush kangaroo.
I was happy to see her until I started to lift her out of the box and saw that her pretty "fur" had been creased and ripped in places. She was completely ruined and had to be thrown out.
I felt a pang of emotion. Not because she was a favorite toy. Her angular body shape made her hard to cuddle with, so she usually sat on a shelf, holding her baby in her pouch. Her importance was in the memory of who had given her to me, and a time of life that will always be precious.
When we first moved to Dassel, we rented a house on Highway 12. Our neighbors were an older couple, Olga and Algot, who we called Neighbor Grandma and Neighbor Grandpa. Their house and yard are forever burned into my memory. I used to walk down the driveway from our house and visit them, on my own, when I was around five. I'd go to their kitchen door in the back of their house and they would always be nearby. Maybe my mom would call them to tell them I was on the way. I'll have to find out.
Neighbor Grandma always had red Kool-Aid in her fridge and a jar of sugar cookies. I would sit in her kitchen and have a snack with her every time I visited. There was a living room off to the side of the kitchen, but we only sat in there when my mom was with me. I would go back into a sunny porch and color. I spent so many days there, with the heat of the sun warming the crayons, that to this day, when I smell crayon wax, I remember that room.
Neighbor Grandma had a garden. I don't remember what she grew. But she had a terrible time with crows. She would sit outside on sunny days in a lawn chair, wearing a floppy sun hat, holding a shotgun. I don't remember if she ever took a shot. I just know she had the gun.
They raised chickens, and once or twice I was allowed to go into the chicken barn to see the baby chicks. Neighbor Grandma would pick one up, out of its cage, with her gloves on. I could pet its head as it peep, peep, peeped at me. She sometimes had kittens, too, and she could hold them on her lap and slowly massage them, from their throats to their bellies, until they fell asleep in any funny position we put them in.
Sometimes Neighbor Grandma's real granddaughters would come for a visit and I'd play with them. They were older than me, and one day caught a live frog that they nailed to a board and dissected. They showed me a neat way to weave a crayon through my fingers, then smack my hand so that the crayon snapped. We would stand out on Highway 12 with our thumbs in the air so we could be hitchhikers, but no one ever stopped.
The kangaroo was a Christmas gift. They were travelling and either sent her to me, or brought her back home with them. There were bottles of bubble bath and cologne in the kangaroo's pocket alongside the baby. It's funny that I can't remember what they smelled like. Maybe I never used them. My parents might have taken them away.
I couldn't play with her like I could with other dolls. She was impossible to dress, for instance, except for hats, or very stretchy skirts. But she was beautiful and had a kind face, and certainly took very good care of her baby.
She's the only tangible thing I have to remind me of Neighbor Grandma and Neighbor Grandpa and the house we lived in for a few years. But it's senseless to keep her when she's falling apart. There's a tiny part of me that still thinks my old dolls have feelings and it seems cruel to throw her out with the trash. There's a part of me that, not so long ago, cried like a baby during the Sarah McLachlan song in Toy Story 2.
I've taken a few pictures, reminisced a little, so I can let her go with all the dignity a faithful kangaroo deserves. And I'll try not to cry about it.