making music

Long before I graduated to dressing barbies and enacting their dramas, I had a doll named Joey.  I can’t imagine naming him that, so it must have been on the box or a soft floppy tag sewn into the seam of his rectum.  My housekeeper Vernell insists I loved that doll like no other, and when she says it, she stops what she’s doing and looks into the air.  Conviction.  “Oh, yes, Stephanie, you loved that doll, you did.  Carried it with you everywhere.  You used to want to take him in the bath with you, even.”  Joey was a boy doll, but you wouldn’t know it from his cloth-stuffed, gender-neutral body.  His head was hard orangey plastic; he had a bowl cut and wore a navy blue pea coat. Sometimes I’d undress him for bath time, but I was never allowed to bathe him.  “He’ll be ruined by the water.”  I imagined my mother was implying Joey was a witch.  He’d melt, I was certain, if I’d gotten him wet.  Instead, I propped him up on the closed toilet seat where I could see him from the tub while I bathed.  Then I’d use colored paint soaps to finger paint stories on the tiles of the bathroom walls until my fingers pruned.

Despite my love for Joey, I scribbled with pen and markers all over his face.  His new flaws made me love him more, not less.  To me, he was just Joey, my friend.  I think that’s what happens when you really love someone.  When I ran out of space on his head, I “wrote music” on his cloth body, beneath his clothes.

A brown upright piano stood against my playground basement.  The basement smelled of water, but not mildew, due to the flooding when storms came.  Somehow, the piano always worked, despite the floods.  I liked sitting on the stool; it opened and was filled with sheet music I couldn’t read yet.  Instead, I assigned alphabetic letters to each key on the piano, and once I created a song I liked, I’d write the “keys” on Joey’s body.  GGGabvdagggacccddddd.  You know, like that.

I miss being a kid, but I think, with my choice of profession, my drawings, menus, photographs, and writing, I still make sure that need is met.  I still play, and I’m happiest doing just that… making my own music in my very own way.  It’s right up there with lunchboxes and old-fashioned grilled cheese sandwiches.



  1. I like these kinds of posts so much better. But, alas, I'm not your "audience." Ah well…as long as you pepper your usual posts with the likes of these, I'll remain a reader.

  2. So you were a ham in front of the camera back then t0o…blowing everyone a kiss. So I guess, some things never change.

  3. It's about comfort. Grilled cheese sandwiches, lunchboxes, dollies named Joey; we ALL had that doll ('cept they had different names). Comfort is safe, it's what we long for, it's what we know best. I think adults should have dollies that make us feel safe and protected…..oh wait, we do have 'dollies'….cellphones, iPod's, palms, laptops, digital cameras. Hey, what ever happened to the slinky and sillyputty?

  4. Just read 'lunchboxes.' It's uncanny, really & truly, but I had the same lunch room experiences. Only mine was an Oscar Meyer bologna sandwich, apple, carrots, & the mini raisin box. Yeah, I longed for the Ring Dings, Yodels, Devil Dogs, Twinkies, Little Debbies, and of course the hot lunch. Never mind the meat balls, how bout the golden greasy grilled cheese hot lunch with fries? C'mon girl! Sometimes if you wanted the treat, you could pull the ol' trade. Like I'll trade you my whole lunch for that yodel. PS, ever make a whistle out of the mini raisin box?

  5. I can't relate to the "products" or certain types of foods, as I grew up overseas and didn't come to the States until I was 11, but…again, these posts are nice and work very well for me. Much better than your "usual stuff," but you're writing for a specific audience (no matter what you say about your blog–ya can't fool this ol' writer).

  6. Sack lunches. With characters drawn on the front in a little cartoon. Diet Pepsi, the best tuna fish, water chestnuts sandwich that ever was. And fruit. Why can't my lunch today be that good?

  7. Oh my, yes, I remember lunchboxes. And Chinese Jump rope, and Baby Alive, and Stretch Armstrong, and and definitely old-fashioned grilled cheese sandwiches. Yum! Thanks, that was a nice trip.

  8. I was shocked to open this story and see myself naked! Nice to know that my computer screen faces the entrance of the office… so about 10 truckers saw the picture when I shrieked. Yeah, who's embarrased? They probably think I am into child porn or something. Great. Lots of love- Lea

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