A couple of years ago, in spite of the plethora of half-naked, crazy-haired dolls littering the floor of the girl’s room. Dolls, that had been purchased and received in the last six years and had formed their own make-believe community with the generation of dolls that survived my childhood to be handed down to the eager little starfish hands of my own children. I still found myself wanting for a doll for the Quail that had Down syndrome. Problem was, every. single. doll. that was marketed for that- creeped me out. And I didn’t want to buy, what to me was a creepy looking doll and tell my daughter whom I routinely gush at how beautiful she is; that this lone doll, not the series that had already been living in her room, represents her.
This conundrum really bothered me at the time, I worried that it was springing from some deep-seeded discomfort I unknowingly harbored about the Quail and her labels. That maybe I wasn’t nearly as accepting as I assumed and presented myself as. I kept flashing back to the hundreds of pictures from her newborn days that I would skip over when deciding which to share because I thought they emphasized the stereotypes that the label of Down syndrome bring along with them.
At that same time Punky– that Irish cartoon about the girl who has Ds came out and that- that I was for. We got that and it now sits happily amongst the set of kids DVDs that we never watch because we never watch DVDS. (Shout out to Netflix: Please add Punky!) But we have it and I enjoy the show. As opposed to how I feel about all of the doll options out there.
At that same time some of the other families on-line that we were friends with because of the Down syndrome connection; were having this Spanish doll-maker named Desi adapt the eyes on these Waldorf-style dolls to represent Ds. The doll with “the eyes” was just as darling to me as the other dolls she made. So I contacted her and put in my order. With the first photo she sent of the Quail’s doll I commented that it didn’t have the same eyes as my friend’s dolls. Desi indicated that as these specialty orders had been coming in she had revised her original design and was it ok? I wasn’t sure how I felt about it- but at the same time- I appreciated her take as an artist and didn’t want to interfere too very much.
Fast forward a year and a half later when our dolls came. For Zuzu I had asked to have the eyes deep blue and heart shaped- because she is both full of heart and wears her heart so openly. The hair- Oh I was as specific as I could be about the hair. When our friend Molly had photographed our family I had swooned over the strawberry blonde locks she managed to capture of their early childhood. This, this I wanted commemorated as they aged and their hair starts to turn more like my own. She created this wild tangle of art yarn that both mirrored their style at the time and pulled out the strawberry of the blonde. I had wanted a smattering of freckles on her cheeks because those had recently begun to sprout. Zuzu, while routinely bathed in sunscreen would occasionally make it out of the house without or manage to wash it off before an afternoon of outdoor play. We would of course give the grim reminders of how darling freckles can be a precursor to skin cancer, which runs rampant in our family and Zuzu would reply how her teacher told her they were angel kisses. Sigh…
Of course we also had to have a series of accessories for the doll because otherwise it really wouldn’t represent the fashionista that is our children. Fairy wings, purses, shoes, scarves and hats. These dolls by far have a better wardrobe then me.
Out comes the Quail’s doll and with the newly designed eyes. Indeed they don’t look like the eyes of our friend’s dolls. Really, they look pretty similar to Zuzu’s dolls eyes. Much like how the Quail looks more like us than she does others with Down syndrome.
Remember that episode of Glee where we learned that Becky’s internal voice was Dame Helen Mirren? And Becky’s monologue: “You may be wondering why I sound like the Queen of England. In my mind, I can sound like whoever I want, so lay off haters.”
Well in the meantime the Quail has fallen in love with Sadie, the blonde,Target version of an AG doll. She was quite specific and insistent in which doll she loved and really, who am I tell her it doesn’t represent her right?