HALLIE EPHRON: I'm on the final stretch, addressing in final comments from my editor, printing the whole thing out and making my own final pass through Night Night, Sleep Tight. While I'm focusing on finishing, in another part of my brain a new story is opening up, and already I can't wait to get back to it.
Working title: Hush Baby My Dolly. It's inspired by my friend Mary Alice's experience cleaning out her mother's house and having to deal with decades of possessions her mother had been unable to part with. When Mary Alice got down on her hands and knees, drew back the bed skirts, and looked under her mother's four-poster bed, she found paste boxes full of doll parts. Legs, arms, bodies, and most unnerving of all, eyes.
She told me about how her mother made her own dolls. She made their clothing, made their wigs. She told me her kids were afraid to sleep in the bedrooms with all those dolls watching them. Her mother called them "sissies." And she told me about her mother's eccentric friend who looked like porcelain doll -- pink hair, pale skin -- who'd call her mother up and say, “Honey, would you like to come over and play dolls?” They’d have lunch and paint and sew. Mary Alice's mother would bring over her golden retriever and friend would brush the dog's hair, saving it to make hair for her dolls.
Now dolls have always creeped me out -- I was always sure mine were up and about and making mischief the minute I was out of sight. I turned them to face the wall so they couldn't watch me while I slept. So my friend's story resonated.
In my novel, the woman with doll parts under the bed will not be a doll collector. She has all those doll parts because... I haven't figured that out yet but I'm dying to find out. Her niece will come to prepare the house for sale and get freaked out by the caches of doll parts. She'll soon discover that the doll wigs are made of human hair, and their outfits made from fabric cut from children's clothing.
I've written about ten pages, most of which I'm fairly sure will wind up in the circular file. And I took a trip to Jenny Baby's Doll Hospital. The owner, "Jenny," gave me a crash course in doll repair. (I took these pictures there.)
She showed me what boxes and boxes of doll parts would look like. And she had her own share of stories to tell. She told me about a couple who brought a doll to repair. The woman carried the doll into the house, cradled in her arms like it was a real baby. It had a real baby’s pacifier.
When Jenny asked the woman, “Is that your favorite doll?” the woman said "This is my baby," and the man added, "My favorite baby is out in the car.”
Am I the only one who's still recycling my childhood fears or have you gotten past them?