There’s a feeling we’ve all probably had at least once in our lifetime, and that is the sense that something is speaking to us. An object, a room, a decision. It’s why someone will choose one dress over another, a particular piece of furniture, a certain path at a fork in the road. Pier One has made an ad campaign out of this very premise.
. “I don’t know,” a hostess might say to her guests when questioned why she dropped five grand on that abstract painting hanging in her living room that looks like the artwork a five-year-old might send in to dear old Captain Noah. “It spoke to me.”
. Keeping with the retail side of divine guidance, I’ve had a lot of things speak to me throughout the course of my life. Most of the time I’m looking for it, asking for some clarity from some invisible force to lead me in one direction or another. Do I really want this necklace? This lamp is pretty, but where will I put it? Then there are those sneaky pockets of spontaneity that sneak into periods of time when despite promises I make to myself to not buy anything unnecessary, there I am swiping the credit card to purchase that frivolous thing that will not only look perfect in some random empty spot in my home, but fill that void somewhere inside of me just as well. Times when a stroll outside to quiet the brain and oxygenate the blood finds me entering that building, store, restaurant, museum I had intended to walk on by. Clearly something was calling to me, imparting unto me a sacred wisdom I needed to heed in order to carry on my journey through this life. How else to explain opening up my wallet for Ricky?
She found me the first of the year, in Niagara Falls. I was spending the day with family and friends strolling Clifton Hill, intending to participate in all the activities of tourism while maintaining hold on my newly minted resolutions of eating well, exercising, and curbing spending. Walking: exercise. Veggie egg-white omelet for breakfast: eating well. No bags in my hands: spending curbed. Sure, I’d picked out several things in every shop we entered, but I left them in their display units, telling myself if I still wanted them when we were finished carousing, then I would go back and get them. By the middle of the day I felt pretty confident that all the spending I’d done previous to New Year’s Eve had been sufficient. I would leave Clifton Hill weighed down with only the money in my purse. I held no anxiety as we entered shop after shop. I was solid. They all had the same souvenir crap anyway. I had my Canada t-shirt. My Christmas tree ornament with the moose and the bear on a sled. I’d said no to handbags and pajamas and hats and beach towels and books, scarves and syrup and bobble heads and shoes made of chocolate and the most cozy blankets and sweatshirts and hoodies. Then we entered a shop across the street from The House of Frankenstein and everything changed.
There were the usual offerings: cheap t-shirts, plastic bracelets, hot glue-gunned hair accessories. Then there was a second room filled with a bizarre selection of merchandise. Bodice-ripper paperbacks. Raw wood products that looked like they’d been hand-whittled by the cast of Deliverance. Stainless Steel pots. Knit doilies that I used to buy for favorite neighbors in my apartment complex as a child at the school Christmas bazaar. And dolls. Porcelain dolls, vinyl dolls, all with names and certificates of authenticity. All with long curly doll hair, wearing pretty dresses with stands jammed up their backs. All with price tags of $50 or more. All except Ricky.
Full disclosure: I’m a little afraid of dolls. Not the baby kind. Those are adorable. But the kind some arthritic-handed woman makes in her basement in Switzerland, using her six-year-old granddaughter as a model. A doll should not be six years old. A doll is something you play pretend mommy with, not pretend playmate. What six-year-old needs a doll that looks like a shrunken dead version of her real-life friends? And what grown woman wants to collect them and put them in her curio cabinet? Not me. But there she was. And she wouldn’t stop staring at me. And I couldn’t stop staring at her. I went and got Arty, Superbee, and Jack McGee (soft “g” for Jack’s last name, please) and made them look at Ricky. Ricky with her hair that someone had deliberately chopped off. Her outfit looking like something her richer, meaner, prettier cousin slapped her way. Or a nun. She looks like she’s off to boarding school. I’m calling her a she, because she’s a doll and in some sort of dress, but these days, who knows. I’m not even sure if her birth name is Ricky; she was the only doll without a nametag. (It would be Superbee who would eventually come up with the name “Ricky,” named after one of Arty’s transvestite clients). She did have a pricetag, though: ten bucks. After staring at her for a few long seconds–I even picked her up–we all agreed: creeper mccreeperson. Superbee had the worst reaction, actually getting the shivers and making a face like I had asked him to lick her.
We all left that room and walked around a little more, with Superbee finally asking if we were ready to go. “I don’t know,” I said. Yes, beautiful babies. I was seriously contemplating buying Ricky. Ricky who had nothing to do with Canada other than that I had found her there. I went back to look at her. We stared at each other for a long time. What was it about her? She was definitely giving me a feeling, and although it wasn’t anything I would exactly describe as pleasant, it wasn’t scary, either. But it was a feeling of simpatico. She belonged with me. I just knew it. Whatever had brought her to that store, she needed me to find her. And I didn’t know what that something was until right now. Literally. Right now. I was going to end this blog in a completely different way, but my friends, that is the beauty of writing: it leads you down a path you never intended upon traveling. And so in writing about Ricky, I realized why I had to have her: Ricky is me.
When I was a little girl, I had beautiful long white-blonde hair. My mom had my dad take me to a barber in first grade and had him chop it all off because she said I got gum in it all the time. After that people would always think I was a little boy unless I was wearing a dress, which I didn’t unless I was going to school. Because we didn’t have a lot of money, my mom took me to Sears for boys’ clothes, which were made more durable for boys than for girls and therefore lasted longer. I was a Catholic schoolgirl who got hand-me-down blouses from my sister and my cousin Lynnie. The boys in school told me I was ugly (except for Kurt Estes, God bless you, Kurt) and the girls never let me in their feather-haired cliques. I lived in an apartment with my mom, sister and aunt. All my friends had two parents or lived in houses. In comparison, I felt poor and broken. I felt unwanted. I felt like Ricky. And I just couldn’t leave her behind.
Ricky is in my office. I didn’t know what to do with her when I brought her home, hadn’t ever looked at her and said, “Oh, she’ll look perfect there.” I simply bought her for eleven and some change once tax was added. The saleswoman said I couldn’t have her stand, so one more thing taken away from poor Ricky. When I got her home, I took her out of her bag and walked her into my office. She’s between my window and the closet, standing on a purple shelf, leaning against the wall. She faces the door so when I walk past in the hallway I can see her. I never look away, never feel scared, even though dolls like her scare me. Maybe that’s why I was shunned: I was different. And being different made me scary. I wasn’t the fifty-dollar curly-haired fancy dressed doll on the shelf. I was unique. I was special. I was creative. No one told me that. No one taught me that. In some ways, I’m still learning the lesson. This time, a ten-dollar, chop-headed doll was my teacher. And I pass it on to you. Because that’s exactly why I found Ricky.