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Photo of the Day | Malibu Francie

Malibu Francie 1972
Francie wears a pink and yellow houndstooth suit my cousin gave me 40 years ago.

I’ve carted around this Malibu Francie since Christmas 1973. And, if you must know, I thought she was a Malibu Barbie until tonight. For 44 years I’ve referred to this survivor by the wrong name.

It’s a cruel world for dolls, y’all. 

In 1974, Francie moved with me from Hacienda Heights, California to Colorado Springs. She was with me during some pretty bad latchkey days. But, they ended — as all bad days do — and we moved on. Once again.

In 1976, Francie moved with me from Colorado Springs to West Texas. Those were good times in the Permian Basin. I liked the tumbleweeds. And, roller skating and taking long drives with my father. But, only after we stopped at the convenient store for a fried burrito and Dr. Pepper. They still sold them in the stretched glass bottles back then.

In 1978, we left West Texas and moved to Arkansas. By then, I was in the 6th grade and still played with Francie every single day. You might say I was a late bloomer, but it got worse from there. I used my birthday money to buy a doll I spotted at the Ben Franklin store. Her name was Tuesday Taylor and she was gorgeous. If you put her in the sun she tanned. I loved that doll so much. But, she had huge feet compared to my other dolls and this was a problem for me.

We lived in Arkansas for less than a year. While we there my father taught me how to fish with a tree branch.

Are you there God? It’s Me…

In April 1979, with just six weeks left in the school year, we moved to East Texas. We stayed there until I finished 8th grade. During these years, I played Barbies on the porch of our old farm house while simultaneously reading Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret and waiting for the mailman to deliver letters from my brother who was in the U.S. Marines.

I thought a lot about Iran in those days — because of the hostage crisis.

I am still thinking about Iran.

In the summer of 1981, we packed up and moved to Dallas. I started 9th grade at Chester W. Nimitz High School, but that lasted only six weeks. That fall, we moved to Southeast Kansas. There, in my bedroom with the sculpted carpet from the 1940s, I played with Malibu Francie for the last time.

Somehow, Francie survived the ensuing years. High school, college, marriage. Even my divorce in 1999. That alone was a miracle since during my years as a broker-than-broke single mom I sold my Donny and Marie Barbie dolls to help finance a move across town.

Malibu Skipper
Malibu Skipper wears a coat my mother made.

Some daughters are born to receive the truth about their mothers while others are born only to bear it.

A few weeks ago, I went down to the basement to look for Francie and my few surviving Barbies. I found them in a small bin of things from my childhood. They were resting among letters from my father, an old lion-shaped purse and some old doll clothes. I carried them upstairs to my daughter, Super B., who is eight. She has no idea the things these dolls and I have been through. I see no reason to tell her. But, someday she will know. Some daughters are born to receive the truth about their mothers while others are born only to bear it.

We sat on the floor and I dressed Francie for the first time since 1981. And, I searched her delicate, molded face for the child I used to be. The girl who lived in all those places and kept all those secrets. The girl who survived all those things — probably because Francie and all my other Barbies acted out the happy stories I made up in my head. They gave me hope that one day I would live inside one of my stories. And, eventually I did. I do. I will.

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