When I was about six or seven, someone bought me the Heart Family for Christmas. A traditional nuclear family unit, the Hearts were a mom, a dad, and their infant. They were made by Mattel and, for some reason, the whole family smelled like baby powder. Black versions of the line were rarer, a trend that persists even 20 years later, but I managed to score black Hearts. For a while, they were my favorite dolls. There was something about the domesticity of the play they encouraged, the imagining of a happy young couple with their brand new, talcum-smelling kid that appealed to me more than the caution-to-the-wind, single and ready to mingle lifestyle Barbie seemed to sell. Yes, the Hearts were my favorite dolls … for about six months, until I lost the kid. After their only child hit the missing doll-persons list, the Hearts were never as happy a couple and sometimes they were an outright bummer to be around.
Dolls can mean a lot to girls. The memories we create with them can last a lifetime. I was never as into dolls as I was TV, movies, and books, but there were a few big standouts for me over the years. I once had a black Raggedy Ann doll that I thought, for many years, had been purchased in a store. It turned out it had been commissioned for me. And at the height of the ’80s Cabbage Patch Doll frenzy, I managed to score a black one of those, too (and y’all know Xavier Roberts was skimpin’ on the black Cabbage Patches …). I managed to keep a doll given to me at birth, a Mattel Love ‘n Touch baby whose butt had my birth year manufacturer inscribed until I lost it in a move during my late 20s. And, of course, I’ll never forget my Jem doll whose earrings were little flickering red lights. She was everything.
While I missed out on some of the other childhood doll crazes that cropped up during my childhood, I always seemed to know someone with a coveted piece who was generous enough to let me play. My cousins had Cricket dolls and Michael Jackson dolls and collections of Barbies and accessories so extensive they could’ve opened their own museum exhibits.
What were some of your favorite dolls when you were growing up? What did you love about them? Did you keep any of them or pass them on to your own children?