Lessons from One-Armed Baby

A lot of Moms I know have nice houses. Fancy houses. The kind where you walk into a foyer and it smells like pot-pourri and there’s this glass-fronted cabinet with all the wedding crystal and silver-framed photos of honeymoons and children, and even though you know for a fact that they have all these kids (because you’re there to pick up or drop off one or more of your own), there’s no evidence of them anywhere as far as you can see.

My house is not like that.

When you walk through my front door, you’ll probably be knocked back by the sports-smell of the half-dozen pairs of cleats stored within an arm’s reach due to lack of closet space, and, because we have no mud room, as many of my peers do, and, because of the aforementioned lack of closet space, you’ll probably trip over a backpack or two. After you regain your footing and rub your bruised elbows from the fall you took when tripping, you’ll catch a glimpse of our living room, with books strewn over every possible surface and drawings and projects too (because we have no library or craft room, either). You’ll see a small house where six people live, four of them children who, despite all our best efforts, haven’t yet mastered the idea of putting stuff away. Frankly, neither have some of the adults.

If you walk into the kitchen, about the size of a shoebox, complete with about 10 inches of usable counter space for food preparation and a dishwasher that can’t open more than 3/4 of the way because it butts into a floorboard radiator, you might see this:

This is One-Armed Baby. OAB was, I think, originally Mitzi’s doll, received as a gift probably 7 years ago. OAB’s the kind of doll that eats and poops. You know the kind? You feed it some reconstituted powder pack of fake baby food, fit her tush over a plastic potty, push down on her shoulders until all the crap comes out. Child claps! Amazing! Then Mom is left to — I kid you not — clean out the inside by repeatedly swishing it with soapy water and then letting it dry to ensure no bacteria will grow. You’re supposed to do that every time you feed the doll.

We fed her once.

Ever since that singular poopy day, OAB joined the troupe of 67 other baby dolls that inhabit our house, spending her time being dressed up and pushed around in rickety toy strollers and dragged endlessly over the hardwood floors (hence, her current One Arm status). But never has she been fed. I saw to that.

Until the other day when Ellie and Joanna figured out what she was capable of. They loaded her up with water and made her use the potty. Again and again. And again. When they grew bored, they left her on their bedroom floor, where I found her some days later. I picked her up and saw the puddle that remained where her vajajay had been sitting. I shook her. Filled up with water. To her boobies.

So I put her by the kitchen sink, hoping she’d drain. Every once in a while I squash her shoulders or pull her head up and shake her upside down, trying to get the water out.

It’s been two weeks.

If you’ve ever had a bath toy, you know what must be growing inside her right now. I fear that OAB is destined for the dump, but, having seen all three Toy Story movies, not to mention Child’s Play, I am reluctant to toss her aside.

But throw her away I will, I’m sure, and I’ve warned the girls.

Till then, OAB keeps me company while I was dishes, her one arm raised in a silent plea — Look at me! Play with me! FEED ME! I hate her and she scares me a little, but I’ve sort of become used to her presence.

It’s hard to let go, even when it’s the smallest piece of your world, even when you know you should, even when you know it’s right.

Even when it’s just a plastic one-armed baby, even when you know it’s time, it’s hard to let go.