While not one given to the art of swearing, I keep a â€œDammit Dollâ€ near my computer. Why? Because my mom made it. Period. The doll is comically ugly, and yet I know she thought it was darling. From the hand-stitched mouth to the googly-eyes and yarn hair, it is classic Mom kitsch. The cardboard note pinned to the doll states:
â€œWhen you think you want to climb the walls
or stand right up and shout,
hereâ€™s a little Dammit Doll you cannot do without.
Just grasp it firmly be the legs and find a place to slam it,
and as you whack its stuffing out yell,
â€˜Dammit, Dammit, Dammit.â€™â€
Mom never used a computer, so I know she typed the above plagiarized prose on her old typewriter. I imagine her opening the carriage after the last hard push of the key, pulling out the roller-pinched paper with a flourish, gluing it onto a cardboard backing, and then, with a long-blade scissors, cutting each square of poem by hand.Â Â In my mind I see her digging through her sewing kit, finding and spilling a stash of safety pins onto the table, and then, one by one, fastening the paper rhymes to her dolls. Piece by piece, pattern-by-pattern, doll by doll. It was her way.
I believe Mom was a frustrated engineer at heart. She had a high school education, dreams of turning our small herd of cows into a large and profitable dairy farm, one husband, five children, and determination. From quilts to a little wooden bridge that spanned our farmland creek, she would see a pattern she liked and then magically break it down into parts. Through trial and error the results cameÂ pretty darn close to replicating the original.
Sometimes this knack of hers was impressive. She made large, well-planned, wooden gates for the barnyard that allowed easy access for humans, animals, and tractors. Mom made animal pens, small buildings, and that aforementioned bridge for our creek. Her quilts were lovely and, more often than not, quite intricate.
But sometimes her knack was, well, f-ugly. I remember the day she gifted me with two â€œSnoopyâ€ dogs made from plastic milk jugs. She saw the â€œSnoopy dogâ€ lawn ornaments at a craft show in Arizona and immediately set out to make her own.Â Â Two milk jugs, google-eyes, felt ears, and a couple pounds of sand completed these pieces of art. â€œHere you go,â€ she said with a pride that gave me no chance to refuse her offering. As I stared at the milk-n-steins she suggested I prominently display them where the neighbors could see her creative genius. Yep. They went in the darkest corner of the basement. Was it my fault the neighbors never went down there?
I guess the Dammit Doll, sitting vigil near my computer, is an apology of sorts. Iâ€™m sorry I wasnâ€™t as appreciative of her art as I should have been. Iâ€™m sorry Mom doesnâ€™t know how often I take comfort in that little piece of her I see daily. And Iâ€™m sorry I wasnâ€™t more supportive of her innate skillsâ€”particularly since I didnâ€™t inherit a single one of them. Dammit, Dammit, Dammit.
Mom, more than I care to admit, you are the best part of my day.