"All souls are equally precious in His sight." —Bruce R. McConkie
Seven years old. She stood no taller than the back of her parents' couch. She was a girl, and she had almost three times as many dolls as she had years.
Dolls of all sizes and shapes. Her largest was a life-size Raggedy Ann with tangled red yarn hair and snipped stitching on one eye and the stitched heart. (The girl had once been younger than 7 and had had a fascination with scissors.)
There was another doll, probably the first one the girl remembered — with blue eyes that opened and shut and hair as blonde as the girl's was brown. It had used to be short and perfectly styled, that doll's hair. Her face, too, had used to be flawless. But the girl had been younger than 7 once, and had had a fetish with scissors and pens.
She had several teddy bears, one, her personal favorite, with a homemade red dress and curly fur. A showcase doll, with English riding pants and a red English riding jacket. She'd used to have a riding hat, and her hair had used to fall in perfect, fragile golden curls. But the girl was 7, and dolls were for holding...even if it messed their hair.
There was a soft, small cloth doll with a painted cloth face, a blue cloth bonnet and brown yarn braids. This one the girl called Laura Ingalls. She had used to have an Indian doll too. Daddy had brought it home from an airplane trip. But it had been made of plastic, and the girl had been 5. First it had lost its eyes. Then...she didn't remember what else had broken. But her mother had taken it away until she was older and could appreciate it.
There were normal dolls too — small ones, larger ones, soft ones and stiff ones. Some had been gifts. Others were castoffs. And still others....she could not remember where they had come from. Some of them didn't have names. Some of them she played with frequently. Some weren't really hers, but she had felt sorry for them and rescued them from the cold cement floor of the black toy closet.
Though she had too many brothers to really play with dolls as girls do, she loved to take care of them. Especially at night.
The little girl knew firsthand how dark the night can be without companionship, how cold it can be without a blanket. And though she had a fetish with scissors and pens, she also had a tenderness in her heart for things that find themselves in dark, cold and lonely corners.
So at night she would take extra special care of her dolls.
With all of them lying at the foot of her bed, the girl would situate herself very carefully under the covers. Then, one by one, she gathered the dolls around her head, on both sides. It was a ginger business, this, reaching to her feet and then trying to situate each doll at the head of the bed without loosening her sheets. She had to keep the sheets and blankets tucked in tightly; only then could she squeeze the dolls around her and hope to keep them on the bed all night. Often she was not successful — she'd awake in the morning to see a half dozen dolls sprawled around her on the floor. But every night she tried.
Her bed was the perfect size for a little girl, but it was too narrow for a little girl, pillows, and almost 20 dolls. The girl knew nothing of science, but she felt, innately, that there was one to this business of situating her dolls. For instance, it made sense to her to put Raggedy Ann on the outermost edge; because that doll was large, she could act as a barrier between the smaller dolls and the floor. And if the girl held Ann's hand through the night, hopefully the doll itself would stay perched up there as well.
But to place each doll safely around her was not enough; no, each doll must also be covered and comfortable. Sometimes the girl felt guilty that her dolls had to sleep so scrunched up against each other. But it couldn't be helped. Cramped as the quarters were, no doll should suffer a night away from her, uncovered and at the end of the bed. Even the ones she didn't think about in the daytime...even they must feel safe and close at night. So she did what she could to alleviate the cramped conditions. She made sure their noses were exposed; and she hoped that if each doll was covered, that would be comfortable enough.
It took four or five blankets, of varying sizes, to get the job done. Sometimes it couldn't be helped; a doll's foot or hand might be exposed when the blankets were stretched so tightly over them all. But the little girl did her best. It didn't matter if the dolls were stiff or soft, pretty or not, dirty or clean, clear-complexioned or pocked with pen marks. It didn't matter if they were fun or not, interesting or not, expensive or secondhand. She gathered them all and covered them all. Just the same.
Then, carefully, she wormed her way back under her blankets, moving little so as not to spill any of the dolls from their delicate perches. Holding Raggedy Ann's hand, she checked once more to see that all the dolls were accounted for and warm. Once she was sure of that, she smiled and closed her eyes.