Jamie & the Big Ears (or I trick my little brother into playing “right”)

My next oldest sister and I were close in age and loved to play together with our dolls. It wasn’t simple play (the way we, to our surprise, saw many other children play with their dolls), but elaborate with plot lines. Our dolls had names, identities, and families, as well as a town. At first, I tended to borrow ideas and story lines from my very imaginative and well-read sister. Soon enough though, I came into my own and began to initiate more plots and stories.

We had a younger brother by several years. In time, he joined our play in the dingy but spacious family basement. Our mother felt a little sorry for him because he was left out of our games and so bought him a Jamie West doll, for Christmas I think. Jamie was one of a Western series of dolls. My sister had Johnny West and I had Jane. Johnny and Jane were adults and about 12″ tall, but Jamie was smaller and either their son or brother; I don’t really remember and we didn’t stick to the toy-manufacturer proscribed family anyway. It wasn’t like us not to rename our dolls too, but in the case of the West family members, we didn’t. Maybe it was because they came with a last name; most dolls came only with a commonplace first name and no last name, so changing their names wasn’t a big deal. At any rate, the Wests kept their names.

The dolls were hard plastic figures with bendable limbs. Their clothes were molded to their bodies, so Johnny was permanently dressed neck to foot in dark brown, Jane blue, and Jamie a lighter brown. Jane’s body always bothered me. It seemed wrong that she was forever locked into her hard blue plastic ensemble and so limited in her fashion choices. Her hard plastic yellow-painted hair irked me as well. Where were her flowing tresses like my other dolls had? It was hard to warm up to Jane and assign her a personality.

The dolls did have rubbery clothing accessories to wear including vests, chaps, and hats, but they got beat up or lost fast. I unwisely popped off Jane’s rubber hands early on (I had a habit of pulling things apart to see how they worked) and permanently lost them. My sister lost Johnny’s cowboy hat outside in our back yard, only for us to find it some time later with ants nesting inside. Ewww.

My brother and the doll Jamie joined my sister and me in our doll town. He came with a wheeled horse and fancy buckboard (a word I know almost entirely for this reason), which we coveted and gave us a little incentive to be welcoming so we’d get to play with it too. Merely having a doll though, did not teach our brother the intricacies, ins, and outs of playing properly in doll world. Frankly, my child-self will tell you, he did not “work” Jamie right. Dolls were supposed to act like humans, with human capabilities and limitations. This meant they walked from place to place, could not hear through walls, etc. Our brother did not grasp these concepts and so Jamie would be spotted hovering mid-flight over another doll’s (home-made, cardboard) house, spying and eavesdropping.

Jamie took to being a trouble-maker and gossip, and repeated things he theoretically heard (that our brother in fact heard), to other dolls. There’s always one, isn’t there? I embarked upon a plan. I told my brother if Jamie agreed to wear big paper ears that I would make, taped to the sides of his head, he’d be “allowed” to hear what other dolls said through walls, roofs, and such. My little brother, not knowing any better, thought this was a fine idea and agreed.

Now, when mutant-eared Jamie went strolling down the street or went into my dolls’ restaurant, the other dolls screamed, dropped what they were doing, and ran away in terror. My calculated plan work. My brother didn’t think Jamie’s ostracism from doll society was worth bionic hearing abilities, so the paper ears came off and Jamie returned to his former place in doll society – but no longer flew over houses or eavesdropped through walls.

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