Did any of you Mississippi Moms have a Raggedy Ann? Did you buy the Ann or Andy dolls for your children? Perhaps it’s a gift idea for those of you blessed to still have parents or grandparents.
Raggedy Ann and Andy
The character, Raggedy Ann is a rag doll with red yarn hair and a red triangle nose, created by American writer Johnny Gruelle (1880-1938) in a series of stories he wrote and illustrated. On Raggedy’s chest is a small red heart holding the words, “I love you.”
The doll was created, then introduced to the public in the 1918 book, “Raggedy Ann Stories.” A sequel, “Raggedy Andy Stories,” 1920, introduced her brother Andy, dressed in a sailor suit and hat. I have our son’s childhood Andy. I just looked for the heart on Andy’s chest. Yes, it’s there!
True Family Story
I thought I’d heard all my Mother’s stories but when she approached her eightieth birthday I first heard her tell this story.
A young girl went to the store with her father and older brother. She saw a pretty new doll on the shelf and told her father, “Oh, I want it!”
Her father had just been paid and had the cash in his hand. The rag doll with red yarn hair and a red triangle nose was on the shelf.
“Buy it for me, Daddy!”
“No, I can’t,” he said. “We need to buy textbooks for your brother, Joe!”
She looked at the money in her father’s hand and saw the doll she wanted high on the shelf and didn’t understand why the doll could not be hers.
The little girl was my Mother, Ethel Irene Reid Morris; the coveted doll, Raggedy Ann.
Birthdays and Gifts
Bill and I set out to find the doll. Living in Louisiana at the time, we went to a French toy store in New Orleans. There high on the shelf was a boxed Raggedy Ann with a gold tag, “I am 80!” Mother was about to celebrate her eightieth birthday. What a perfect gift! Standing next to her in a box of his own was Raggedy Andy with a gold sticker stating that the companion doll was seventy-five! We bought both dolls.
Mother was delighted when she unwrapped the gifts! All three of her children and three of her five grandchildren were there as we celebrated in a Baton Rouge restaurant.
Hard Lesson about Gift Giving
Mother taught me a lesson that day that was at first hard to accept. She gave away our gift to her, sending the pair of dolls with my younger brother to his young twin daughters in Illinois, who could not attend the party.
In time I came to accept the fact, that a gift given, belongs to the recipient, to do with as they choose, even to give it away! Mother gave me a plaque that Christmas: “Love isn’t love ‘till you give it away.”
I asked my husband that Fall, “Can we try one more time to give Mother a Raggedy Ann doll?”
“Of course!” he insisted. We went back to the same toy store and bought a much larger doll as a Christmas gift.
Raggedy’s usual place is sitting in a small rocking chair in Mother’s Louisiana home. But this summer the doll helped celebrate Mother’s 95th birthday!
A Childhood Dream
We were surprised! Long before Mother’s first grandchild came, she decided her grandmother name would be Ma’Rene! Thus our daughter, Cathy first called my parents, Ma’Rene and Pa’Polk.
A year ago Ma’Rene announced that she was ordering a costume to wear for her big birthday and she wanted us all to come celebrate. Our family gathered from north, south, east, and west to enjoy my mother’s 95th birthday! North from Mississippi and Illinois, South from New Orleans, East from Georgia, and West from California. Mother fulfilled a childhood dream as she was Raggedy Ann! Balloons, a banner, food, presents, speeches, a presentation and a cake. Ma’Rene, her children, grands, great-grandchildren, and friends all had a wonderful time.
Give Away Some Love
Did you see the wonderful Mississippi Public Broadcasting (PBS) program on Oscar Hammerstein II? Just this summer I learned the story behind the lyrics about giving away love. Hammerstein wrote these words for the introduction to a song in “Sound of Music.” Before they sing, the character Maria says to Lisel:
“A bell is not a bell ‘till you ring it.
A song is not a song ‘till you sing it.
Love in your heart is not put there to stay.
Love is not love, ‘till you give it away!”
Give away some love by sharing some of your family stories with your children!