We had ten dolls in our first group. Ten dolls each wearing an outfit complete with underwear, anklets, socks or leggings, shoes, and belt. Some girls had eye glasses, hair bows, and shoulder bags. Each of these outfits needed to be taken apart, sprayed with stain remover where stained, disposed into the dry-cleaning bag and run in the dryer. We decided to do the dry-cleaning all in one batch. This later provided us with a challenge and a learning opportunity.
Once naked, the dolls needed to be "washed" and groomed. A bowl of baking soda mixed with warm water and a soft washcloth constituted their bath. Their hands, legs and faces were carefully wiped down. As they were drying off, we tended to their hair; and did the best we could. Some girls had straight flowing hair, others had theirs in tangles. We gently teased, pulled and prodded: some to no avail while others emerged with beautiful styles.
All the while, JR and I were talking about the dolls we had observing the differences and picking favorites. Of course it was hard to pick a favorite as each was unique in her own but JR still managed to like one doll more than the other. "This one has eyeglasses," she said, "that's my favorite." "I love this dress," she went on, "no, this one is my favorite." "Why do we have so many Julie's?" she remarked. "We had Kaya last time." "We have never had Addy before, Mama." "I like Molly." "Look at her hair clips, they are so pretty." "Her hair is just like mine." And on the conversation went, until the dryer end cycle signal beeped.
After the load was done, we stared at the pile of clothes. Yes they were sanitized, but the pile was one giant mess. When we decided to launder all the clothes together I had missed an important detail: although there were many of the same dolls on hand, each had a unique barcode by which she and her belongings were identified. We had to match each item to its exact owner; we couldn't just simply dress them up. This proved a little daunting for three reasons: the number of garments, because some items weren't labelled, and because some clothes had come to us mismatched. But we couldn't let this challenge get in our way. It slowed us down but didn't stop us.
We turned the work into a game. JR called out numbers. We grouped the corresponding clothes together. Then, we found their dolls. We sorted and stacked and made sense of the mayhem. Those items that didn't have numbers got paired with dolls that were missing pieces. Those that had been mismatched from the onset remained as such. We straightened out all the outfits first, then grouped them with their girl. We had our own assembly line. On one side lay the naked dolls and their clothes, and on the other the dressed ones.
Diligently, one by one the dolls got dressed and the right-hand side dwindled as the left-hand side grew. Underpants, bloomers, skirts, belts, and removable collars made their way from the floor to the dolls. Jannah-Rae was proud of what she had accomplished. She loved pulling up the pants, velcroing the shirts and putting the shoes on. She got frustrated when one arm wouldn't go into the dress, or when she couldn't tie the belt, but she kept with it. She asked for help and continued "working." She remarked how pretty the girls looked and how clean-smelling the clothes were. She hugged them and kissed them and talked to them and about them. Soon everyone was ready, but not their bags!
The pink carrying cases still needed to be wiped down and matched, too, to their girls. Luckily there were three of us: Yousef had been wanting to take part in this project all along and this was his opportunity. I handed each child a wipe and a bag and they began wiping. It was hilarious watching Yousef copy JR's every move.
Half an hour later the car was ready to be loaded. The pink cases mounted high in the trunk and the squeals and cheers rose loud in the backseat. It was a job well done and JR was excited to do it all over again.
"I will get ten more!" she exclaimed....
... And she did.