One thing about growing up to American parents overseas is that you feel a disconnect to their stories in a way. Oh, don’t get me wrong, they are utterly delightful and coveted but when you don’t see those images in anything other that your visits there they have this essence of being supreme and sublime, that sought after and completely elusive golden apple.
However, one of the lucky things I did have were grandmothers that were excellent seamstresses. I don’t know which of my grandmothers made it for me, but I was given a gift of a set of Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls.
I had the tendency to anthropomorphize my dolls. They were a huge extended family with complex relationships and roles. My French dolls (understandably) served as the Adam and Eve and were the parents and the pair that would populate new lineages of dolls. My pre-colombian doll was the grandmother crone, the one with wisdom. Each doll had a specific role and duty.
Raggedy Ann and Andy were something quite special though. I believed them to be the dollified version of my aunt Anne and her then husband Dennis. SO, I called them Raggedy Anne and Raggedy Dennis.
Shortly after I was gifted the dolls my aunt and Dennis came to visit us in Ecuador. I remember going to the airport and seeing this absolutely stunning woman get off the plane with the most flaming ball of red hair. She was a hippie of the time, and was both stunning and shocking. I was delighted. She was exotic and wow did my doll of her just seem so tame when faced with the real deal.
I am sure that there was not much Anne knew to do with my brother and I at that time. But here was this artist with this mane of fiery hair that just awed me. I don’t recall much time with just her and I except for one time. I was sitting in our yard in our home in the then wonderfully quiet neighborhood of Mariscal and she was doing my portrait. I remember she wearing a ruana as Quito had a tendency to be colder that the southwest from which she had come. And she looked so beautiful and as she put her pastels to paper I was so delighted that I was chosen as a subject. Only beautiful people were the object of paintings, right? Of course it turns out that I was a commission my mother had requested… but thankfully I learned that later and was able to believe that I was worthy of being an artists subject. We chatted a bit while she put my image to paper. I recall it as being a rather adult conversation all things considered. The evenings during her visit I recall with a lot of laughter, like she and my mother enjoyed each other. I remember them coming by my school and just being so proud that my beautiful aunt was there to pick me up… and thinking just how exotic and she was, how as she stood there next to my beautiful mother that there was hope that my gangly tall self would become beautiful like them.