Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Slice of Life: Love in a Black Vinyl Travel Case

When our loved ones die, some of the material possessions we have from them become even more treasured. These treasured items aren't always valuable to others, but they can mean the world to us because of the love they represent.

My big sis, Velma (or Velma Ann as she was known in the family), died on December 27, 2020, two days after her 79th birthday. She had struggled with Alzheimer's disease for several years, but was fortunate to stay at home, thanks to the loving care from her husband of sixty-one years. 

And so it was that this past week, I went in search of a special travel case. It's plastic vinyl and the handle is broken (broken piece is inside the case). Evening in Paris is inscribed on the black case with the Eiffel Tower in the background. Perhaps this was the genesis of my lifelong desire to visit Paris, finally achieved when I was 50+ years old. 

The case holds my Tammy doll. For some reason, my mother believed that Barbie was an inappropriate doll for a young girl. She felt that Tammy seemed more girl next door and wholesome than cosmopolitan and curvaceous Barbie. Sometime in the 60s I received my Tammy doll for Christmas. The slogan for Tammy? The doll you love to dress!

And I so loved dressing Tammy! Her wardrobe was all handmade by my sister Velma. I have marveled over the gorgeous outfits for years. When I was young, I liked to dream that I had all the clothes in my size that were in Tammy's case, including the two gorgeous evening gowns, the two church dresses, the tent dress (so chic) with matching scarf, blue skirt and red-checked blouse with matching scarf, a red jumper and blouse, a green sheath dress with ruffles on the bottom, shorts with matching crop top (trimmed with rick rack), clam digger pants and top, Chinese evening jacket (because Aunt Nan worked at a Chinese restaurant and the employees wore brocade jackets that Aunt Nan made), and six rather ordinary nightgowns (my favorite was the pink and blue floral flannel on the top right).

I spent some time dressing Tammy last night in my favorite outfit, a turquoise sheath dress (with flower trim around the neck) and coordinating corduroy coat. Tammy no longer has any shoes or hangers for her clothes. I recall that at one time she had pink hangers for her clothes and a box that fit into the case for her shoes. But since my days of playing with her, she has spent time with two other little girls, my niece Susan (now a Grandma) and my daughter Sara (a mother of two boys). Maybe one of these days I'll go on E-bay in search of shoes, but as I recall they never stayed on her feet anyway. Tammy may be the best dressed barefoot doll in the world, thanks to the tiny stitches and elegant clothing lovingly crafted for her by my big sis, Velma, more than half a century ago.


  1. I'm so sorry to hear about your sister's death, Ramona, but I'm so glad to hear that you're finding comfort in the clothes she created. What beautiful treasures! Your love for your sister and those cherished memories of long ago days with her and with Tammy shine through this piece.

  2. OMGoodness...I am sorry to learn of the loss of your sister but you post has me smiling as the happy memories roll through your words. I did have one Barbie (after years of pleading for my need to fit it) and an old saved, case with LOTS of homemade, by me, outfits. This gift from your sister is one that is giving one more time.

  3. What a heartwarming memory of your sister's love and care for you! How amazing that you still have the doll and that incredible handmade wardrobe. The image of you dressing her in your favorite outfit is such a beautiful tribute to your sister. So very sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing today.

    Your story reminds me of the wardrobe my grandmother made for my Barbies, long ago. She knit little sweaters with pearl buttons, there was a poodle skirt made of white felt with a pink poodle, and there was a faux fur coat. I need to dig through my parents' basement to find those treasures.

  4. My heart goes out to you at this time. So sorry to hear of your loss. What a wonderful piece of writing and a fun way to think about and reflect on her life and yours. Tammy did indeed have nice clothes.

  5. Ramona, what a sweet memory of your dear sister, Velma, who designed a wardrobe for your Tammy doll.I laughed when you talked about clam diggers. That is a word from the past. I'll never forget wearing these cropped pants that were so in trend. I hope the wardrobe brought you back to memory lane. I am sure your sister is smiling in heaven watching over you during your "playtime".

  6. This is a treasure. In the world of abundant choices this doll with its unique hand-made wardrobe is very special.