Saturday, February 07, 2009

My Beloved Käthe Kruse Doll


My mother loved this doll before she ever knew me, and I loved this doll before I ever knew my own daughters.

I was only allowed to play with this doll on very rare occasions. Most of the time it sat on a shelf near Mom's vanity, so my fond memories of Mom meticulously applying her make-up and doing her hair (just like Jackie Kennedy, as I recall) included the vision of Käthe Kruse in the background -- always graceful, always beautiful, and always slightly mysterious.


Käthe has real human hair, which always creeped me out a little, but never prevented me from begging Mom to allow me to braid her hair just this once, just today... please?

But Mom always replied that I should play with Goldilocks' hair instead. Goldilocks was a plastic American doll that I was given when I was seven and like a bad mother, I always felt guilty that I couldn't love Goldilocks as deeply as I loved Käthe, because while Goldilocks was pretty, Käthe was exquisite, and her inaccessibility even made her more perfect in my eyes.


I always wished that I could look like Mom's Käthe Kruse doll and the fact that my beautiful cousin, Anya, did look like the doll just fueled an irrational jealousy that permeated my childhood and lasted even into adulthood.

Mom's Käthe Kruse doll never lived in my room as I was growing up and she didn't live in my house during most of my adulthood. It was only after Mom's death in 2004 that I was given permission to take Käthe down from atop the tall mahogany wardrobe that looked upon Mom's deathbed and lovingly bring her home to live with me and my daughters.


Käthe lives on my oak dresser now. My daughters have never begged to brush her hair or dress her in a different outfit (of which there are many -- some original, some sewn by Mom when I was young and some, like what she now wears, a relatively recent gift from Mom's German friend). Neither of my daughters has loving and longing memories of this beautiful doll from the heart and mind of a young girl and so, when I die and leave Käthe behind (to which daughter? now there's a conundrum!), their memories won't be filled with emotion, as mine are.

I realized, as I wrote this entry, that I don't know much about how Mom came to own her Käthe Kruse doll. Did her mother give her the doll? (Not likely, as her mother was, from all I've heard, far from lovingly maternal.) Did the doll belong, perhaps, to my grandmother? Or is it newer, something that Mom acquired as a young adult -- and why? I wish I could call and ask her, but alas, she's as mute as Käthe.*

*Upon talking to Dad, I learned that a guy who had a crush on Mom gave it to her as a wedding present!

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Anonymous said...

My thought is that you just might have a granddaughter or two someday who will admire Kathe like you did and someday, way in the future, they could inherit the doll with a whole new set of memories along with it.

Anonymous said...

What an odd wedding present! Having two sons, I found that the daughter-in-laws are much more interested in our family history. I already passed on items that were very special to my mom to them, giving them a little written history to go along with the items. Since none of those items are valuable, I wanted to make sure they were treasured and not thrown out after I'm gone.

jennifer said...

My mother-in-law's name is Kruse. I guess it's a moderately common German name... is there some significance to the doll's last name? A famous doll maker's name perhaps?

Great story!

vailian said...

What an amazing doll! When you are next in Germany, you must visit her villa on the island of Hiddensee (that magical place)
It has been abandoned for years (was used as a Stasi school) and is now being split up as a condominium (you could even buy one of the apartments if you want)

Lorrene said...

I have always loved dolls. Especially old ones such as yours. What a beautiful doll.

vailian said...

Sorry, I meant to make it clear that the villa "Lietzenburg" on the island of Hiddensee was built by Käthe Kruse for her family.
I have been to the island nearly every year for the past 5 years, it has the best beaches in Germany and no motor vehicles (it is bikes and horse carriages).

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful post... I came to know Kathe Kruse dolls because I started selling her in my toy store. There was no turn around since the first time I laid my hands on these dolls and pulled my fingers through the hair. It stirred emotions that I last experienced as a little girl. My mom (who was living with me) could never wait for the new shipment of Kathe Kruse dolls. Kathe Kruse also makes an adorable pink bunny (Bunny Girl). I gave my mom one of these Bunnies for Christmas 2008 - she always hugged them and commented on how this was just the kind of toy she would have played with for hours as a child. A few months later my mom passed away and this Bunny is now mine. What fond memmories...

Silke said...

I too have a Käthe Kruse doll, with real human hair. She is unusual in that she also has the Schildkröte mark on her back. My one regret is that I brushed her lovely hair so many times when I was little that her wig is a bit thin.

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