It should be an easy question, right? When your sister asks you about your deceased mother’s dolls and you have no daughters and no real attachment to porcelain dolls in wrinkled satin dresses from the 1940s.“We should keep the dolls,” you hear a voice say, and you realize it is your own voice into the phone.
“Really, MOV?” your sister asks quietly, tenderness in her tone. “There are probably five dozen dolls.”What are you planning to do with five dozen dolls? Or even two dolls, or one?
Where will you put them? Your brain spins, like a child’s toy top, which come to think of it your mom might have collected, too. You have no room for dolls. You also have no room for rocks, but your sister just sent you your mom’s collection of geodes and crystals for your sons. You have no space for extra Christmas ornaments, but a similar phone call last week produced two boxes full of vintage ornaments from your childhood.
“I said, do you want me to mail them?”Your aesthetic could best be described as “Virgo Zen.” You have a couch, two chairs, and some paintings. Your whole house would be paintings if you could help it. You would like to live in an art gallery or museum and lose yourself in the paintings.
“Dolls are like art, right, Oakley?” you whisper.“MOV, I don’t have time for this, I’m exhausted.” The words float away from you. She does not sound impatient, just tired. “The estate guy will be here this weekend to sell everything. I went on eBay to compare prices and get an idea of their value based on their condition. All together, we can probably get around $300 for the dolls.”
What did you expect her to say? Three thousand? Three million? And yet …“Can you email me a picture of some of the dolls? Can I have a few?”
“Okay.”A few minutes later, your phone beeps and you see a Native American doll peering up at you. She stands next to a broken china doll in roller skates and a Dutch doll with long blond braids and wearing wooden clogs. There are twenty more photos like this. Your phone cannot load the photos fast enough.
You call your sister back. She answers on the first ring.
“Well, what did you decide?”
You want them all.
You want none of them.
“I’m sorry, Oakley, I don’t know why this is so hard for me.”You choke back tears, you sitting at home in your pristine Virgo living room with your art, while your sister goes through 70 years of someone else’s possessions.
“MOV, it’s okay. I will box them up for you.”You are paralyzed by indecision. Why do the dolls affect you so much? They are not your mother. But they belonged to her. You struggle to untangle the emotions from the dolls or the Christmas ornaments. None of it matters, really. In the end, they are just things.
“Oakley, wait—can I think about it and tell you tomorrow?”