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Saturday, July 24, 2010

"M" for Moola

It's amazing the things you find while you are looking for something else.    Yesterday I was restringing an antique doll and spied a missing S hook caught just inside the leg opening, wrapped in the old elastic cording. I dislodged the hook and out it came, bringing with it a confetti of tattered newsprint. The paper was brittle and brown and written in English. I checked the first few postage stamp sized scraps looking for a date, a city, some provenance for my dolly. There was a piece of a classified ad for a three bedroom home priced at $22,000 - how long as it been since a nice three bedroom house sold for 22K, in any city?

But there was more newspaper. Lots more. I was fairly certain the nineteenth century bisque doll was older than the newspaper and the paper was not original to her manufacture or used as filler for her composition body. Someone somewhere had put this folded newspaper inside the doll's body for safe keeping.

Was it a birth or wedding announcement? Maybe it was recipe for brownies or a favorite poem? Or an article about the doll or her owner? Or was something else wrapped in the newsprint? Hmmm .....??? Stashing cash in odd places is not unheard of, particularly for those who lived through the Depression. My mother still keeps her spare coins in old socks in her purse, which by the way came as a big surprise to the thief who once tried to pry it off her arm. She swung that satchel like a bat and he was out for the count until police collected him off the sidewalk! And she can still recall finding $100 bills stuffed inside her father's beloved German clocks after his death. In my own adventures in goodwill hunting I found the "M" volume of a set of encyclopedias cut out in the center in the exact shape of a stack of bills. Very ingenious, I thought; "M" for "money".

Wow, maybe I had stumbled upon a case of someone who used "doll" as a memory clue for hidden "dollars.”

After 30 minutes of digging, I had retrieved a sizeable cache of tattered newsprint but no cash. No “dollars” for "doll" - no "M" for "moolah for Marie". But I had pieced together enough of the newspaper's banner and scraps of holiday advertisements to narrow the origin and season to Christmas in Asheville, North Carolina, but still no date.

Asheville is in the North Carolina mountains, about 100 miles west of us. So strangely enough our little dolly had returned to North Carolina but is still a mystery where she has been in the last 70-80 years. Like many of my dolls, she arrived on my doorstep swathed in bubble wrap and stuffed in a cardboard box. There was a Massachusetts postmark on the package but nary a hint or whisper of where she has been or who has loved her all these years.

Or why someone in Asheville North Carolina filled her belly with newsprint one Christmas so long ago. And I know, … I know what you are thinking, but no, in this case, it was not the little Christmas mouse settling down for a long winter’s nap.   Not this time – the doll is pristine.

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