By Georgie Bright Kunkel
Some years ago my late husband spent time in the medical ward at Mt. St. Vincent and ever since I have visited there to play the piano occasionally. One afternoon I wended my way along the front hall to the grand piano in the entryway and was playing my impromptu melodies when a group of preschool children came into view with their young caretakers. They sat down around the piano and listened for a while and after I had played my finishing arpeggio the young teachers began visiting with me and soon discovered that I do story telling. It wasn’t long before I had agreed to come and tell my favorite story about the Patsy Doll in the red plush coat. Every little girl in my town wanted to have a Patsy Doll. She could stand up on her own and was jointed so that she could be moved into many interesting poses. Her eyes opened and shut and she came with her own organdy dress with red polka dots. Soon the preschool children filed into the room, each carrying a doll to share later and put them at the back of the room until I was through story telling. They sat down in a circle looking up at my doll, standing in her red velvet coat and her red velvet hat as lifelike as a real little girl.
Her coat was cut from a child’s coat that was handed down in our family from my older sisters to me after a neighbor gave it to our family. The neighbor came to live up in the hills of Lewis County after fleeing from the earthquake and fire in San Francisco many years before I was born. It seems that when the city of San Francisco suffered the earthquake and fire in 1906 most of the downtown merchants lost most everything they had in their shops. People who were rushing by to escape the burning city were handed wearing apparel and other items that had escaped the flames. One little girl was handed a beautiful red plush coat as she and her family walked hurriedly by. They were planning to travel to the hill country in Lewis Count. My older sisters were offered the red plush coat to wear when the little girl had outgrown it.
When my older sisters outgrew the red plush coat it was passed down to me. When I outgrew it then it went into a big bag in the upstairs closet. One Christmas I got a mama doll. It was called a mama doll because when I bent the doll over it cried “mama.” The mama doll had on a red plush coat made from this old coat that had stayed so long in the bag in the closet.
But when I was a little older I got the Patsy Doll and the coat just fit her and she wears it to this day. It wasn’t until recently that I began telling the story of this red plush coat and bringing my Patsy Doll who is now wearing the coat to show to young children.
When I finished telling the story of the red plush coat at Mt. St.Vincent, I was delighted to see most of the young listeners ready to tell about the dolls they had brought to show.
One doll was well worn as the little girl showing it said she had taken it to bed every night for a long time. Another doll even had roller skates. One of the boys shared his
own action figure doll as well. The children asked to come close to my Patsy Doll and were very interested in the fact that she only had one shoe. I explained that I had received this doll when I was eight year old and after many years of playing with her that her shoe had been lost. They were entranced with the fact that I could tip the doll so that her eyes would open and close.
When I go back to Mt. St.Vincent to visit again I hope that my new preschool friends will wave to me from down the hall. I can look at the picture of these wonderful children and cherish this sharing time that I had with them. Mixing the generations is what life is all about, right?
Georgie Bright Kunkel is a freelance writer who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-935-8663.