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Remembering ‘Helen’ My Treasured Childhood Friend

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This is a picture of my friend’s daughter carrying her doll while watching TV. My friend’s name is Emily.

When I saw this picture, it brought so many memories of me as a little girl. Just like Emily, my mom also used to wrap my doll around my back ‘kuku‘ style.

Those days, our dolls were fancy. By fancy I mean they were dolls made of plastic -plastic like bucket (ndoo) plastic. That was as fancy as it got.

My doll was red in color, and her name was Helen. I carried Helen everywhere I went as she nested securely on my back. I watched TV with her. I went to visit my friends with her. We ate together. WE played together. We had good times together. Helen was like my beloved child. Even though she never responded, I always had very engaging conversations with her.

Whenever I went out to play in the sun with my dear Helen, I was sure to cover her completely because I didn’t want her melting. I also didn’t want her to emit that ka-smell that plastics emit when they have been in the sun too long. I took good care of Helen because she was such a treasure.

For some reason though, I always chewed at Helen’s feet. The taste of plastic was somehow very sweet and I don’t know why I decided to eat part of Helen yet she was such a good friend of mine.  As she grew older, she turned from red to pink. But I loved her in all her shades. Helen. Such fond memories of her.

I don’t know where Helen went -my mom probably stashed her together with our old toys and gave them out. I sure do hope that she wasn’t thrown out together with our old plastic basins and  buckets :( . That would surely break my heart. I wish I could find Helen again.

So that’s why when I saw Emily’s daughter with a doll on her back, I remembered Helen. I don’t know if kids still carry dolls on their back, but I haven’t seen any child do so -until I saw Emily’s daughter.

Do those plastic dolls still exist? I wouldn’t mind buying one, just as a memento. So that I can show my boys the kinds of dolls that I used to love. Nowadays all I see are Barbies and just the other day when buying to cars for my boys I saw Dora dolls. Wow!!!!!! Imagine I was so enticed by a Dora doll and yet I’m an all growned up woman. Now what of a little girl?

But neither Barbie nor Dora got anything on my Helen. Helen was the ‘it’ of dolls. I wish I could see her again.

So moms with little girls, do you tie your daughter’s doll’s on their back? Did you as a little girl do the same? What memories do you have?

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Maryanne Waweru-Wanyama is a Kenyan mum raising her two sons in Nairobi. A journalist, Maryanne is passionate about telling stories and hopes that through her writing, her readers learn something new, feel encouraged, inspired, and appreciative of what they have in their lives. Maryanne's writing focuses on motherhood, women and lifestyle. "Telling stories is the only thing I know how to do," she says.

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  1. My four year old ties her doll and stuffed rhino on her back. She started doing it because I used to strap her brother on my back when he was a baby. She has only one doll. I bought her one of those cloth African dolls they sell at Maasai market. I vaguely remember having dolls as a child but they kind of disappeared and I still don’t know who was taking them. I used to like dressing them up more than anything. And yes, they were made of plastic with blinking blue eyes and long blonde nylon hair. I don’t know whether I strapped them on my back. I wasn’t really keen on dolls then and now. I buy her clothes, accessories and cute shoes. What I really wanted as a child was clothes, accessories and cute shoes! Ha!

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