Waltzing Mathilde.

by Rose Jermusyk.


An old woman – either a granny or an auntie, for it is ever so hard to tell the difference from one soft cheek to another – made a doll for a young girl in her life. The doll had long, hanging arms. The doll had long, unmoving legs. The doll had a soft, green heart stuffed with good intentions.

With such long limbs, the doll was quite tall for a doll, though not quite as tall as the young girl; the girl for her part was not tall enough to keep the doll’s long limbs from dragging on the ground, but young enough that such damaging and treasuring in equal measure were easily forgiven.

The pair went everywhere together; the girl never minding how cumbersome the doll’s limbs were, the doll never minding how much dirt and soiling came along with being alive. They were happy together, but clocks keep ticking and children keep growing.

The young girl that never let her doll out of sight became an older girl who kept her doll on a shelf; and, the older girl became a young woman who hid away childhood’s things in a large trunk.

The doll that went everywhere with the young girl took her place on the shelf with ease as a bird might perch to watch its brood; and, when she left the shelf for the trunk – folded in half ever-so-gently to fit among the other things – she was sad to think she might never see the girl’s smile again and glad to dream of it without interruption.

Clocks keep ticking and some young women become women with children of their own. One day a young mother with a familiar sort of smile opened the trunk that held the doll as it dreamt of long ago smiles. The mother took the doll who now marveled out how different the world was and presented it to a young boy seated by the window to watch the rain.

“Oh!” he cried when he saw the doll, rushing to embrace the soft body and all its long limbs. The boy took the doll everywhere he could, tying her arms about his neck and her legs around his waist so that she could go along with all his tree-climbing and other adventures. The doll’s joy was boundless and she often thought that the only thing that could raise such joy higher would be to hear him call her name.

One rainy day, not unlike the day they met, the rain fell in such a way that its gentle drumming was a sweet kind of music. The boy swung the doll about and watched her limbs fly out in all directions; but, when he wanted to dance about with her, her long arms were hanging and her long legs were unmoving.

Suddenly, it was clear what he needed to do: he got a large spool of twine, cut off four pieces of good length, and tied each of the doll’s limbs to one of his own. Just so, arm-to-arm and leg-to-leg, however he danced, she danced the same. However he jumped, she jumped the same. However he somersaulted, so did she so that he cried “Mathilde! Mathilde! My skilled, Mathilde!”

Deep in her stuffing – upon her soft, green heart – the doll felt where an old woman once embroidered Waltzing Mathilde. Deep in her stuffing, Mathilde felt that in place of a heart she carried an overstuffed chair, she was so happy.

            This is my purpose, she thought to herself, to have adventures and watch over children and wait dreaming in the dark for the next one … over and over again … until my limbs all fall away in threads and my stuffing wear away to lint and all that is left is a little green heart with a promise upon it and memories within it.


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