When I remember Grandmommy’s house, it’s always Summer. Or maybe Spring. It’s at least warm enough to be outside. We played outside a lot. I have memories of poking underneath her azalea bushes, looking for Easter eggs with my cousins; running to the front yard with a dime clutched in my hand, trying to catch the ice cream truck as it made its way down the block; and catching fireflies after dark, putting them in an old mayonnaise or pickle jar with holes poked in the lid. I suppose we visited other times of year, or perhaps it would be raining, because I also have memories inside the house, although this particular story took place on the brick patio outside the kitchen door.
When we would visit, there was never a need to bring our own toys – Grandmommy had things for us to play with. There was the stuffed dog – long, like a dachshund, but with blue velvet around the middle – I liked to sleep with my head on his middle part. And the babydoll with a squishy belly and hard rubber arms, legs and face – I carried her around all the time, giving her bottles and rocking her to sleep. It was the babydoll that got me in trouble one time – the only time my grandmother ever got mad at me.
The family next door had 3 girls – two, a few years younger than me, and Susan – a couple of years older. Susan was tall, pretty, and most importantly the oldest. She often decided what game we would play.
One time, I took the doll outside and met them in Grandmommy’s side yard. Susan wanted to play operating room – she would be the doctor and her sisters and I would be the nurses. So we got a butter knife, some Band-Aids, and a permanent marker.
Susan laid the doll on the patio table and pretended to cut her open with the butter knife. When she was done, we put bandaids on her belly, and then drew scars and stitches on her arms and legs. With the permanent marker.
When Grandmommy found out what we had done, she got mad – angrier than I had ever seen her. She sat me down on her red kitchen stool – the kind with the steps that folded up underneath the seat – and scolded me for what felt like a long time. She told me I was not allowed to play with the babydoll any more, and couldn’t take any toys outside. I was more upset that she was mad at me than that I was being punished – I hated disappointing her. But I’ve always wondered if Susan got in trouble too, since it was her idea!