“And what’s your dolly’s name, Little Girl?”


‘”Parasot,” she squeaked.’

I know you’re not supposed to have favorites among your children. I remember asking my mother who was her favorite and she would respond diplomatically, “You are all my favorites.”

Who could possibly choose a favorite from among this hot and sweaty yet adorable bunch?

Well, that question is easy for me to answer; I only have the one Child. But then there is the question of favorite nieces and/or nephews. I won’t reveal my favorites, having inherited my mother’s diplomatic nature. But, when they were all little, The Dude expressed an especial fondness for his niece Natalie, my Favorite Sister Laura’s daughter. (I can say “Favorite Sister” because she is my only sister; but I confess she would probably be my favorite if I had seven sisters.)

Me, holding my still-Favorite Sister Laura

Natalie had a doll whose name was “Meat.” I kid you not — Meat. We aunts and uncles used to get a real charge out of asking, “What’s your dolly’s name, Natalie?” and hearing her pipe up in her adorable baby-duck voice, “Meat!”

Natalie, at about Meat owning age, with her cousin The Child

The Child, on the other hand, was more of a stuffed-animal person. She owned a whole array of them: lions and bunnies and squirrels and kitties and even a penguin. Her naming scheme was to call them what they, well, were. The lion was “Lion,” the bunny was “Bunny,” and so on and so forth.

The Child, with Dad Dude and Squirrel, on a ski trip. Yup, the Stuffed Animal phase lasted for a while. Till tennish or so. Then it was rocks. Which is another story for another time

When we would go on a trip, which was quite often in those days, she would pick an animal to “go with,” as they say in the Midwest. When we were packing for a road trip, say, she would announce, “Duckie got to go last time, so now it’s Penguin’s turn.”

Cow gets to ride a trolley in San Francisco

But back to the story of the title. No one knows why little Natalie called her dolly “Meat,” but eventually I was able to discover the origin of another unusual dolly name, “Parasot.”

Could this be Parasot? I received an embarrassing number of toys in those only-child, only-grandchild days

When I was really little my Mom and I lived on my grandparents’ farm. My Dad was in the Air Force and was stationed overseas, in Korea, so Mom thought it would be best to stay with her parents for “the duration.” (I’ve written about this, in a story called “Kissing Daddy Goodnight,” if you’d like more about what can happen during a ‘duration.’)

Me, earning my keep at Gramma’s house

I was so young then — this period lasted from babyhood till about two years old — that I can’t remember it. But I’ve been told I was quite demanding. So much so that my Grampa Peterson called me “Imperious Alice.”

Well, I was the first — and only — grandchild until my Oldest Younger Brother Scott was born. So there’s that.

Me, surrounded by toys, including my new baby brother Scott

Anyway. I was showered with affection — and toys. After all, I was the only game in town, grandchild-wise. I had one doll, though, that I liked the best. I named her “Parasot.” The adults all thought this was pretty interesting. “Parasot?” What kind of name is “Parasot?” My mother would say that she thought I just liked the way “Parasot” sounded when I said it.

Well, time went by. My father came home and met my little brother. My grandparents left their farm and moved to town. I grew up and moved to New York City. My grandfather died, and, eventually, so did my grandmother.

Grampa P, who would catch my eye at the dinner table, only to have me shriek at him imperiously

I was at Gramma’s funeral, standing in the family receiving line shaking hands and accepting kind words and condolences when a very old lady approached.

“I am so sorry for your loss,” she said. “I remember you from when you were very little and lived on the farm.”

“Thank you so much,” I said.

“Yes, I remember you,” she continued. “I was one of your grandmother’s neighbors. I used to come over for coffee, and you’d sit on my lap. I’m Mrs. Parasot.”

No, that’s not the neighbor, but I bet she’s there for coffee. That’s a Great Aunt holding her grandchild Valerie — next to Gramma P holding me

Amagansett, New York. January 2021

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9 thoughts on ““And what’s your dolly’s name, Little Girl?”

  1. I loved dolls! So much so that even after I knew I was too old for them, I’d talk my sister, seven years younger than me, into asking for the doll I wanted for Christmas. So I could play with her. I still remember her: La Bebe. Life-sized and pseudo French, so that satisfied my fancy taste in babies, I guess. Funny, when I had real babies, that was my least favorite stage. Give me a five-year-old any day!

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