The scene was reminiscent of a 1970’s disaster movie. Bodies in piles scattered everywhere; some partially clothed, most nude. Enthusiastic wild eyes stared at me with maniacal wild grins. “GIRLS,” I yelled, “Please come get this Barbie mob out of the bathtub!” I heard giggles from the hallway and gleeful cries of “Sorry daddy” as the girls whisked the dolls to the safety of their rooms.
We started with just a few dolls when the girls were little. A friend of my wife, with several daughters, asked if we wanted their dolls since her girls didn’t play with them. She brought a storage tub full of Barbie dolls, clothes, and other accessories. We made the girls give away many of the dolls and they still had enough to populate a small town. The girls played with them through the years. My wife and I were always cleaning up tiny shoes, clothes, and the occasional Barbie head from every room in the house. Many shoes and accessories were stored in the vacuum cleaner bag and I’m sure some were transported outside in dog poop.
As I guy I don’t understand the fun of playing with Barbie dolls. The girls would brush their hair, take them shopping, or they would stand around and talk. The Corvette was cool but pink.
You see, when I grew up I did have dolls. I had GI Joe and not the small guy with the plastic beard I had the tall GI Joe with the scratchy life-like beard, camouflage clothes (one set – no wardrobe needed), and weapons. I also had the Six Million Dollar Man doll with the telescopic eye and karate chop action. And, of course, Evel Knieval with the stunt cycle. These guys had adventures that usually meant putting an arm back in the socket. GI Joe would rappel down the deck or fly in a cool helicopter. Occasionally I’d borrow my sister’s Barbie as a victim to be rescued from an evil, and dainty, Ken being karate chopped by the Bionic Man. Dolls? Yes, but action and adventure instead of hairstyles and shopping.
Occasionally, when the doll mess was out of control, my wife would put the Barbie empire in a storage tub in the attic for a week until they promised to better control the mess. Eventually the girls put the Barbies in the attic themselves. They haven’t been down in a long time. Even the dog misses chewing on a Barbie foot or wayward plastic high heel.
Instead of dressing up Barbie, they are dressing up themselves, combing their own hair, and painting their nails with mom. Gone is the high-pitched little voice, “Bar-be goin’ shop-en. Want to play wif dis one daddy?” My little girls became young ladies.
When I go to the attic storage for a suitcase or holiday decorations I sometimes see the tub of dolls, still smiling, most of them still naked. I would give one day of my life to be able to enjoy another day with all of my children when they were young. I remember eating frozen yogurt with the girls after a trip to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, watching them giggle and play with one another, and thinking, “I’m going to miss you when you grow up.” And I was right.