I was born in the heyday of the Barbie doll. She was ten years old when I was twelve, and though she was far more mature looking than I was we did in fact grow up together.
She was so beautiful with her perfectly coifed hair, her fashionable outfits and her I-mean-business-but-I-don't-really-work-at-anything-but-me stilettos. Who wouldn't love that kind of beauty?
Well, me, for one. With my sensible Catholic school shoes to go with my itchy plaid uniform, gigantic white underpants, a generously freckled face and flat chest I had a hard time relating to Barbie. Even at that young age I knew when someone was out of my league and Barbie most certainly was.
Thankfully her best friend, Midge, came to the rescue a few years later. Midge with her practical bob and freckles sprinkled across her nose was the answer for this average looking little girl. I was crazy about Midge. She dated Allan, not that frat boy, Ken, with his stupid sweater tied around his neck. What kind of guy did that? We lived in Chicago. Either you wore a sweater ten months of the year or you didn't. But, Allan, in my dreamy dreams was going to college to get smarter and improve on his overall decency and devotion to Midge. Ken on the other hand was going to drink and hit on all the coeds even though everyone knew that he and Barbie were a "thing."
Midge was my girl.
A neighbor who was a seamstress started making doll clothes for Barbie and Midge and my mom was a frequent customer. She'd put in an order and a week later Evelyn would call and tell her the tiny, perfectly sewn clothes were ready. Mom would send my sister, Jean, and I over with some money wadded in our fists to pay her and add to our vinyl Barbie and Midge suitcases. If Evelyn's husband was home he'd open the door and say "Come quick, Evelyn!!! It's the Sipanski sisters." Seeing as how we were German and Irish I didn't understand why he always called us by a Polish name but he thought it was funny.
A few years ago when Mom was still in her old neighborhood we got to talking about Evelyn and Ed. "They're still in the same house," she said. Evelyn had moved from Barbie clothes to quilts and had won some awards for her pieces.
"I'd love to see them," I said to my mom and so she called Evelyn to see if I could come over. Later that day when I rang the bell Ed answered the door and said, "Evelyn!!! You're not going to believe this. We've got a Sipanski sister at the door. Whatever you're selling we're not interested," he said and slammed the door in my face. Seconds later he opened it laughing, grabbed me by the hand and said, "Get in here and tell me everything you've been doing the last forty years."
Last week I ran into a Midge doll at an estate sale and all those memories came flooding back. At $65.00 she was more than I wanted to spend for a bit of nostalgia, but like Ed and Evelyn it was a sweet reconnection with a favorite old friend.
On that blistering hot day the humidity had made her hair too big, her bangs too short and a bit of bloating seemed to make getting the zipper up on her jeans impossible.
Midge was still my girl.