Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Antique Books

Common Wayside Flowers, published 1860  Birket Foster and Thomas Miller

The Song of the Cardinal by Gene Stratton Porter
Book cover design by Margaret Armstrong

Peonies, early nursery catalogs

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

My Mary Ann

My Mary Ann

When I was about 7 years old, for my birthday, my mother made me a doll.  I woke that birthday morning to find her sitting at the foot of my bed.  She was gorgeous and she was huge, almost life size, at least in my child's eyes.  She became my most favored doll, a constant companion. 

We were living at the time in temporary living quarters, in an old commercial building in Portland, Oregon.  When we had moved to Portland from Waldport in about 1939, rental housing was plentiful.  We lived in nice rental houses in the S. E. part of town.  The houses were furnished, or at least partially so.  I remember there were Axminster carpets on the floors, big overstuffed "davenports" and chairs. My brother, Shawn and I used to play with marbles on the carpets, using the designs to represent towns and roads and whatever else came to our imaginations.

We had made the move from Waldport in the summer months when school was out.  The children of the neighborhood were all out in the evenings playing "Tag" and other games in the streets. There was little auto traffic to worry about.  Most people, including us had no cars.  Our move had been facilitated by friends who owned or borrowed a truck to pack our belongings, and we were stuffed into a borrowed car, wending our way through the night hours over narrow winding roads, arriving in the city of Portland still in the darkness.  I remember my first view of the city from the crest of a hill in West Portland, looking over the city of lights.  Very impressive to young eyes. 

Even though our new neighborhood was full of the sounds of children playing games in the streets, our mother would not let me and my siblings go out to play because we were coughing and wheezing from "whooping cough" and she didn't want us to pass it to the other kids.  She soon learned from the other mothers that she might as well let us out because most of the other children had the same thing, or had just recovered from it and so were immune.  So out we went to play, learning new games, "Hide and Seek", "Kick the Can", and learning to yell "ally ally oxen free".  I was four years old and would start kindergarten at Glenco Elementary School in September.

My kindergarten and first two years of schooling at Glenco were shortened when it became necessary for us to move again, putting us in a different school district. Rental houses became scarce as WWll began and owners were able to find buyers for their properties.  So we, poor renters were sent packing and it was nearly impossible to find a new place. 

My parents found us living quarters behind a store front in a building on Hawthorne St, right across from the Bagdag theater.  It wasn't too bad because my mother who was a skilled dressmaker could use the front for her business.  But I remember the back part being just one long open room, with our beds lined up against one wall and a kitchen in the back.  The ceiling was very high and there was a skylight way up there, which had to be painted black because of the war time "black out" order. So my birthday was a little bleak until I woke that September morning to the sight of "Mary Ann", the most beautiful doll I had ever seen, sitting on my bed.  She had brown hair in two braids, big blue eyes and sweet red lips.  She wore a pink dress and darling shoes carefully made from felt and with a shoe button strap closing.  She made me a very happy little girl and was my favorite companion for the next several years.

After the war ended my parents had been able to gather enough money to buy a house on 11th avenue in N. E. Portland, where we lived for several years.  Then they decided they were not entirely satisfied with city life and they began a search for a rural property.  I remember my dad coming back from those land hunting trips with a handful of little plants to identify. Though his formal schooling had ended with the fourth grade, he had been a life long learner, and one of his special interests was botany.  So he searched the properties not only for their practical value, good land, a house and outbuildings but also with an eye for what kind of plants grew there.   One of the places had Mariposa lilies growning on it.  Those were so beautiful, but could not be the deciding factor and their choice led us to a 20 acre property near a tiny town in Clackamas County,  named Boring. 

Settling in there we kids soon made friends with other families up and down the gravel road, spending many happy hours riding our bicycles up and down the hilly countryside when we were not required to pick strawberries or beans or to feed the chickens. 

A few houses up the road lived a family with about ten kids, some of them girls near my own age.  We became fast friends and spent many hours playing together, cutting out paper dolls and designing dresses for them.  I took my beautiful Mary Ann to their house and they fell in love with her, too.  At their pleading, I left my doll with them overnight.  Bad mistake!  When I next saw her she had a smear of bright red lipstick all across her face. I was so unhappy, I told those nasty little girls that I didn't want her back that that they could just keep her.  This was an unhappy experience for me that has been in my memory for many years, decades... never forgetting my Mary Ann.

Jumping ahead to the time of computers and ebay and other ways of searching for interesting things, I was browsing a web site with old things for sale, perfume bottles, lacy doilies, jewelry and many other things.  I began to look at dolls, old dolls, mostly the tiny German and French dolls of a time long past.  Then I saw her!  Mary Ann!  She was not my own doll of course but she was exactly the same, lovingly made by some other mother for another little girl.  I recognized her instantly!  She simply had to come home to my house and so I arranged to buy her.  She is exactly as I remember except that now, seeing her with old lady eyes, she has shrunk to a smaller size.  Funny how that happens.  But Mary Ann is home, my prized possession once again.