Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Two Dolls in Knitted Nests

Once, my nanna took me and Yvonne to a jumble sale. It was in a church.  And I think what made it memorable was that my paternal nanna was not the sort for jumble sales, not the sort for church.  We must've been about eight or nine?  Maybe a wee bit younger.  And I remember the smell of the place.  Old, a bit damp, a bit dirty.  Old dirt, the kind that collects in creases and never really gets washed out.  The kind of dirt that defines fabric, reveals its story a little.  Of course, it being a scent, sometimes it's off putting.  Sometimes the stench keeps others away.  And I guess that's how stories don't end up being told, they stay trapped in those places that never feel sunlight, but always manage to hold onto the rain.

Anyway, at this jumble sale, there was one table that had allsorts of stuff thrown on top of it.  Literally as though everything had just been dumped there so that the ladies of the church could go and make sure the cake stall was pretty, or the vicar had enough sugar lumps in his tea.  I remember at the time being drawn to it, because when I squinted my eyes it looked like the fells.  It looked like the places we used to run away to get away from all the noise, from all the bruises.  And why can't a pile of discarded jumble not be as welcoming as the slopes of the fells?  We both started rummaging, through old skirts, through solitary shoes.  Leather ones, tan colour, buckled.  Creased like the lines on the faces of the women in the church.  More places, collecting stories.

Inside the mound of jumble, inside its belly, right in its womb, we found two dolls.  Tiny things.  Four inches long at most.  Plastic.  Big, wide, staring eyes.  Misfitting knickers, I remember that.  Their too big knickers, billowing around their plastic bums.  White, what else?  What was special about these two dolls though, they were each sat in the middle of this knitted thing.  Imagine a hanging plant pot, but made out of wool.  And imagine that someone has gotten carried away and knitted all the sides up as well.  So that the plant pot, this one made from wool, it's like a nest.  And there's a satin ribbon tying the tops together.  Pink.  Baby doll pink, the inside of a kitten's mouth pink.  Skin that's just lost a scab, that kind of pink.  And these two dolls, they're sitting in the middle.  Huddled in, in the dark, the two of them.  Separate but somehow together, sitting silent in the murk of fingered wool and abandoned dreams.

We bought them of course.  Peculiar treasure from the stomach of a church, how could we not?  They smelled too, the dolls and the nests.  Like spilled face powder, the one my nanna used to call rouge.  The one that came in its own circular box with its soft, soft sponge.  The one that smelled of things I was never able to really figure out.  And there it was, curled around these dolls.  Knitted into their nests by a someone we never knew.  All those stories, in the creases of everything.  All the forgotten moments - the loves, the losses, the dreams, the things spooling out trying to become could-have-beens.  Sitting in a mound of jumble.  Other people's discarded hope, building themselves tall, becoming fabric fells.

And those two kids with heads full of this numinous future where anything was possible.  Where death didn't dwell and the knitting pattern of DNA strands somehow decided everything would end up being alright.  Being good for two dolls in their nest.  For two lasses that hadn't started that treacherous descent into adulthood, not then. Not in those moments.  Not yet.