Cut Throat Rag doll

Written and performed in Dec 2009 by Petro Janse van Vuuren as part of a life story project with 7 other women. Performed for friends and relatives of the group.

I don’t have any memory of playing with her. I have no memory of holding her. I only remember having her. I don’t even remember getting her, or who gave her to me. I just had her. I never played with her, I never held her. I am her stepmother.

She is like my grandmother (God kom haal my) and her own mother died when she was 3 of the big flu. And her step mother , I am sure, only remember having her and ending up with her, having to keep her safe somehow. Gran was never held or played with.  (God kom haal my)

Arme Ouma.  Arme Cut Throat Rag Doll. (God kom haal my). Poor Gran Poor CTRD. (God kom haal my).

I do remember running into her from time to time as I pack or unpack boxes of old childhood toys.  I most recently remember discovering her in an old metal trunk with some other toys which somehow miraculously escaped all the garage sales and Christmas old toy giveaways. Somehow, I kept holding on to her, but never holding her. Like Gran she just waited for the next time I will find her and pick her up. (God kom haal my) waiting in a frail care space to be remembered and visited.

Then she came to me in a dream, Cut Throat Rag Doll. I was expecting a wise old woman or a fairy godmother, but there she was with her gaping throat and her smiling face and open arms going “hold me, hold me, hold me!” Like Gran (God kom haal my) always praying to be saved, to be fetched. But God never comes and I never hold the doll.

And I know why I kept you but not held you and I know why I don’t give you away. Its your throat with the stuffing hanging out and the underwear that is showing. You’re a disgrace. Look at you. Pull yourself together, fix yourself up.  Every time I see you I feel like tearing at the stuffing, pull it all out and leaving you lying there just an empty skin..

But not today. No more ‘Hou my vas, tel my op, God kom haal my, gee my ‘n drukkie. Mamma, Mamma ek wil jou hê!’.. Today I take responsibility for you. Today I take the needle and thread to close you up. Today I will remove you from your in-between-space. I wouldn’t like to be waiting. I want to be out of this place where people are coming and going, being born and dying. This waiting space in between going up and going down,

Today, I make you whole. It’s time to decide if you are coming or going. I would like to give you to someone who needs to hold you. Someone who will hold you the way you want to be held. I am tired of feeling like a step mother. You need to go so that the step mother can be set free.

Nee, Ouma, dis nie jou netjiese stekies nie. (Not the neat stitching you would have done).

I want to stay, so Rag Doll, you need to go..

Ouma, what will you do?

Post Script

After I performed this story, I gave the doll to Gran. She asked me what it was and if she had a name. I said to her “Call her Monica”. This was Gran’s name. In my head someone still needed to hold Gran the way she was never help. But Gran looked at me and said “I am Monica”. She never liked the doll and never held her. She soon asked my mom to take her away, please. Gran was no longer the step child, she had come into her own. I could stop pitying Gran and begin to accept and love her without guilt.