While raising our three daughters, our home was filled to overflowing with toys and dolls. Mostly dolls. As the girls grew, their interests went from Care Bears to Cabbage Patch Kids and from baby dolls to Barbie dolls. By the time the grands came along, most of the dolls had been given away, with one exception-

Karen, a blinking, blue-eyed, brown-lashed, thirty-inch-tall doll, belonged to our youngest daughter. She made the cut as the doll exodus took place and was still here when our first granddaughter arrived. Karen is a toddler-sized doll made in Taiwan for the Eugene Doll company c1974. She has plastic, out-stretched, toddler-sized hands and feet with melded toes.

Karen has seen a lot of action over the years. She has a receding, widow’s peak, hairline with seven rows of empty holes across the front of her head. What remains of her dark brown hair is matted in clumps around her skull.

About five years ago, in a cleaning purge, I decided it was time to find Karen a new home. Our town supports a Thrift Store that takes donations, so I dressed Karen in her nicest outfit and then wrapped up her remaining wardrobe in a knotted bandana. I attached the bandana to her wrist and pinned a note on her shirt. “My name is Karen. Please give me a new home.”

Before I could take Karen and other donations to the Thrift Store, my middle daughter came home for a visit. She saw the pile of give-away and noticed Karen. She looked at the bandana bundle and then read the note. “That is too sad!” she said, “You can’t give Karen away!”

Guilt overcame me as if I were about to give up one of my own children. I quickly unpinned the note, unwrapped Karen’s clothes and carried her upstairs to the room where the grandchildren played when they came over.

In the ensuing years, the grands occasionally played with Karen. Though most of her original clothes had disappeared, they dressed her in an eclectic assortment of found items: a pink fur-rimmed cap, undies and booties courtesy of a Build-A-Bear; a faded 0-3 months size Gerber onesie, and a pair of Carter’s, size 2T, navy-blue leggings with tiny white hearts.

During the pandemic, as I had time to deep clean the house and purge excess belongings, Karen once again came on my radar. She and a plush baby doll had been upstairs, lying dormant in our antique bassinette. I knew I still could not part with Karen, but at least I could give away the baby doll. I carried both down to the front porch where I was sorting a big wicker tote of toys. I sat Karen in the rocking chair and tossed the plush doll in a bag of donations. I continued sorting and tossing when suddenly music began playing inside the give-away bag. What in the world? I thought.

Peeking in the bag I saw the baby doll flashing colors and playing a bizarre melody. To say it gave me the willies is an understatement! I pulled the doll from the bag. It continued to flash colors and play the eerie music. I chucked it at Karen who was still sitting in the rocking chair. Instantly the music stopped.
So I am keeping Karen. And the plush baby doll.

I have offered them to our daughters, but so far, no takers. They think Karen is possessed. And maybe she is. All I know is neither she, nor the baby doll, will be leaving this house anytime soon.

2 thoughts on “Keeping Karen by Judyann Grant

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