Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Joyous Barbie Reunion

The following post was originally published online by DOLLS magazine in November 2009.  I was one of their "industry experts," blogging under the title:  Dolls in Black: Chronicles and Perspectives.   I shared the link to this post the same day it was published, but for the benefit of new readers, and because I do not know how long my blogs for DOLLS will remain online, I have decided to re-blog this post here.

L-R: #3 Barbie®, brunette bubble cut Barbie®, Ken®, Midge®, Talking Barbie®, Francie®, Skipper®, Tutti® – the #3 Barbie® was a 1990’s gift from my niece; all others are from my childhood.

I cannot recall the exact age when I received my first adult-figured, 11-1/2 inch Barbie, but it was probably May or December of 1965 at age 10. The doll and accessories were either a birthday or Christmas gift. My mother, a high-fashion aficionado who always "dressed to the nines," made certain that I owned Barbie and her friends. She also ensured that they were properly dressed in the current haute couture fashions.

I do recall enjoying several hours of play for at least three years with my inanimate friend, Barbie, and her host of friends and accessories. Hours of doll play were spent in the bedroom of hot pink and orange décor that I shared with my younger sister, Robin. Being six years my junior, Robin played with baby dolls and I played alone with my more mature girls and one male, Ken.

I enjoyed redressing the dolls in their trendy outfits, mixing and matching their clothing, popping heads on and off; and after play concluded, I made certain that each doll and accessory was properly stored in my baby blue, double-sided Barbie case. I can still visualize the graphics on that patent-leather doll case, those that were on the rectangular-shaped doll boxes, the fashion packs, and the miniature brochures that advertised additional fashions and accessories. Those were the good old days when doll play was truly enjoyable and I acted and thought like a child.

At age 12 or 13, things drastically changed. Brunette bubble cut Barbie and the host of other Barbies that I owned along with her boyfriend, Ken; Midge, Talking Barbie, Francie; little sis, Skipper, and littlest sis, Tutti were no longer my inanimate friends. As a result of my juvenile belief that I was too old to play with dolls, I abandoned my former companions.

Before adopting the too-old-to-play-with dolls attitude, I had been mesmerized by a younger neighborhood friend's Barbie collection, which put mine to shame. Her family's dining area had been converted to what looked like a Barbie museum. I was speechless the first time I saw all her dolls, clothing, accessories - cars, townhouse, you name it, Rochelle had it. Soon after, without my mother's knowledge and certainly without her permission, I packed up my meager Barbie collection and gave everything to Rochelle. "After all," I thought, "she's just a kid and she still likes to play with dolls."

That gesture, in approximately 1968, ended my Barbie and other doll-play era.

In 1991 a fluke incident prompted my interest in collecting all types of Black dolls, Barbie and friends included. At this time, however, I was only interested in acquiring vintage Black Barbie and friends because none of these dolls had been included in my doll play as a child. I conducted a mad search for the very first Black doll given the name Barbie who made her debut 20 years after #1 Barbie. My doll search and ultimate acquisition included many of the 1960s and 1970s Christie dolls. (Live-Action Christie and Malibu Christie are still two of my favorites from the vintage era.) Cara and Curtis, and any other doll in the vintage Barbie family that looked like me were included in my list of must-haves. The 1981 "Afro" Ken (Sunsational Malibu Ken) and Steven (the most handsome male friend of Barbie/Christie in my opinion) were also must-haves as was Talking Brad, another hunk of dark chocolate vinyl!

In approximately December 1995, during a Christmas Eve gift exchange held at my home, my mother presented me with two beautifully wrapped Christmas presents. As she handed them to me, pointing to one of the boxes, she said, "You're going to really love this one." After explaining her attempt to retrieve a box in her garage labeled Christmas decorations, another box fell from a shelf into her arms. The contents of the beautifully wrapped package that she knew I was going to love had been in that garaged box. Naturally, I opened that present first. My niece and her family were approaching our front door during the time I unwrapped and opened that box. After I calmed down and answered the doorbell to invite them in, my niece commented, "I heard you outside... why were you screaming?" I showed her the contents of the unwrapped gift. Inside was the remainder of my Barbie collection, just as I had left them approximately 27 years prior! I had no idea that I had not given all of my Barbie collection to my childhood friend.

Even though they still do not look like me, I was overjoyed by my reunion with brunette bubble cut Barbie, her boyfriend, Ken; Midge, Talking Barbie, Francie; little sis, Skipper, and littlest sis, Tutti. I fondly recalled the many hours of doll play spent with my inanimate vinyl friends. It was indeed a joyous reunion!

After the excitement in the room settled that Christmas Eve in 1995, my mother said, "I wonder what happened to all your other dolls." I looked at her with the complete innocence of a 12 year old and did not mumble one word. I will never admit and she will never know (unless she reads this) that I gave the dolls away!

View the following slide show of my childhood and now adult vintage Barbies and friends.

Link to original post

After searching for its replacement for several months to at least a year, I  purchased a baby blue, double-sided Barbie® case like the one I owned as a child.  I wonder what Rochelle did with my stuff. 

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  1. Very heartwarming story. I saw many of my own childhood friends in the slideshow. I see that you were very conscientious about taking care of your dolls when you were a child. What a blessing that they were returned to you as an adult collector!

  2. Congratulations on the return of some of your childhood dolls. It's interesting to read which Barbies collectors began with ... for me, it was the Standard Barbie with the 1966 hairstyle.

    And as Limbe Dolls points out, you took great care of them so that they were preserved from then.

  3. Glad the two of you enjoyed this. I was surprised at how well perserved the dolls were, too. I didn't even change their hairstyles. The ponytail doll's rubberband had deteriorated but her ponytail was otherwise intact.

  4. Such a great story to share. I'm happy your dolls found their way back home to you and to find the carry case as well, it was just meant to be. My first dolls were Cara and Curtis and they always hung out at the county club either golfing or playing tennis before returning to the townhouse. I still play with them to this day.

  5. Hi Brini - Glad you enjoyed this. It's wonderful that you still own Curtis and Cara and are still enjoying them. A friend gave me my pair several years ago.


  6. Very nice post. That was such a nice reunion with your dolls. You probably appreciated them more as an adult than you did as a sweet of your Mom to have done it this way. Good for you on finding the case.

    Cara was the first and only AA doll that I received as a child. All of my other dolls that I had were not. I remember having countless hours of fun with my dolls. Thanks so much sharing, it took me back down memory lane.

  7. Georgia Girl - I appreciate them now as a collector. As a child, I appreciated them, too, until I thought I had outgrown them. These remaining ones that were not given away must have been my favorites. I probably gave Rochelle more accessories than dolls.

    I'm glad this post brought back fond memories of your childhood doll play.


  8. I'm going to dub you Barbata Walters. You always get me all teary eyed. Very touching story. I can't remember my first Black Barbie. I just remember my beautiful townhouse, the car, and the fur. You should now try to find Rochelle to see if she still has all her stuff (and your stuff). Hey you never know.

  9. Thanks, Vanessa. I have thought about trying to locate Rochelle, but I'm sure she has a different surname by now. I wouldn't ask for my things back but if she still had them and offered them, I'd accept.

    You were one of the lucky ones to have the townhouse. I don't recall the fur.


  10. Wonderful story! So nice your mom wrapped them up for Christmas--the perfect touch!
    As for finding Rochelle, do her parents still live in the neighborhood? That would be a start. Other than that you can find just about anyone one the internet now, even starting with her maiden name. And you wouldn't have to ask for your stuff back. You could offer to buy it. I have been daydreaming about doing an internet search for the man whose mother I sold my tricycle to (for him) when I was about 8 or 9!

    1. Hi Tamsykens - Glad you enjoyed this.

      I don't really want to find Rochelle; and if I did, I wouldn't want my things back if she still had them. If she doesn't have them, I would be curious to know what happened to them as well as what happened to her massive collection.

      On the other hand, I think you should make it a reality to find the man whose mother you sold your tricycle.



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