The Secret Dolls

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“The Secret Dolls,” Ensign, Dec. 1992, 46–47

The Secret Dolls

I had been a single mother for years, raising five sons. Now I was remarried to David, a widower, and I was feeling a little awkward in David’s family home. Making the adjustment was a challenge for both me and my new family, which included David’s six grown-up children, three of them daughters.

As December approached, I felt apprehensive when I thought of the holidays. None of my own children would make it home for Christmas, and I wanted David’s children to know that I loved them and was happy to be a part of their family. What could I give them?

When we had first gotten married in September, I had begun investigating and reorganizing the house so I would know where things were and so I would feel more at home.

One day, I found an old shoe box covered with dust. Inside, packed in shredded newspapers, were parts for three porcelain dolls. I was startled and pleased.

I knew that David’s first wife, Lois, had loved working with ceramics. Her daughter-in-law once mentioned that Lois had even begun some ceramic dolls for her three daughters, but the figures had never been finished. Were these the dolls Lois had begun?

I thought of David’s daughters and my longing to be their friend. Could I somehow finish the dolls and present them as a Christmas gift not only from me but from their own loving mother?

Ecstatic, I told David of my discovery, and he shared my excitement.

First, I took the dolls to Linda, a doll expert a friend had recommended. She was astonished at the delicate pieces and agreed to finish them by painting and firing the ceramic parts, assembling the dolls, and making dresses. I chose dress colors I thought matched each daughter’s personality. Each doll would have a slightly different shade of auburn hair.

As Linda began working on the dolls, she made a discovery.

Upon my return home, the phone was ringing. It was Linda, her voice filled with emotion. “Do you know these dolls have been dedicated?” she asked me.

“What’s a dedicated doll?”

“On each doll’s ceramic body appears an inscription: ‘To my dear Kathy,’ ‘To my dear Heidi,’ ‘To my dear Lorelee.’ Each is signed ‘Love, Mom 1970.’”

Like Lois’s hand from the past, I thought.

The dedications made the dolls even more precious, and I looked forward with anticipation to giving them to David’s daughters. I now realized Lois had poured the ceramic parts for those dolls fourteen long years before, when the youngest girl, Lorelee, had been only five.

As Christmas neared, our feelings about our secret in progress—and our eagerness to present the dolls—could scarcely be restrained.

Finally the dolls were ready. I had written a note to each girl, telling them about my feelings for them and explaining why the dolls were so important. I emphasized that each doll came from two mothers who loved them a great deal—their own mom and me. I bought gift boxes, nestled the dolls in tissue paper inside the boxes, added the notes, and wrapped everything carefully. I was more excited about those dolls than about any other gifts I was giving. So was David.

Next day, we assembled the children, their spouses, aunts, uncles, grandchildren, and cousins for the presentation. Wordlessly, David and I gave each daughter her package. They began unwrapping them. Silence, then gasps, sobs, and floods of tears. Even Lois seemed to be there.

Lorelee threw her arms around me. Later, Heidi confided that the doll confirmed to her that I was supposed to be part of their family circle. Kathy wrote a note expressing how touched she was and how meaningful the doll would always be to her. And I felt a great joy in finishing a gift of love from Lois and myself.