A Ceremonial Burning of the Sock Dolls


“Whitey the Camper Cat” has a serious injury on his paw, is almost an amputee. He got caught in the spokes of Sierra’s bike trailer when she was 1 ½ years old and we were traveling the length of the entire C&O Canal on our bikes. But thankfully, Whitey was tethered to a length of parachute cord in the event that this small child accidentally tossed her kitty overboard, which is exactly what happened.

We found Whitey the Camper Cat in a storage container along with Heidi, the rubber baby doll that 3-year old Sierra used to practice how to be a mother or a big sister on before her baby brother Bryce came into the world.

There were other toys in there too. Tons of stuffed animals and a handful of very primitive looking sock dolls that look out into the world through plastic button eyes that were hand stitched on. Their bodies were stuffed and decorated with magic markers and had lace and bows hot melted to them… the most basic early toy making. This is how my children learned to sew.

Todd had already started the fire to burn the stuff we no longer wanted. Bags of the children’s favorite baby clothing- handmade sweaters, little leather shoes, their first hiking boots, hand stitched with black thread on the Colorado Trail when the seams burst. Hand sewn fleece clothing that the kids wore as they traveled the rooftop of America on their llamas.There are photographs of them wearing every single piece of clothing saved here, but although they were clean when they went into the bag, the stains surfaced and no adult child of ours would put them on their own babies, or even a reminiscing grandmother. They had to get burned.

Years ago, Todd decided to clean out the kids’ stuffed animal toy box without telling anyone. However, just then Bryce happened to wander out to the garden to the burn area and there he saw his clown, the one whose legs you pulled and then he sang, fire flames licking its eyes. Bryce swore it was singing its song as it died and he is forever scarred from that experience.

The kids are not home as we go through the storage area of our log home, cleaning out, making room. Since Bryce graduated from art school and moved his apartment stuff home and Sierra drove out to grad school in Boulder with only selected material things in her tiny Yaris, Todd and I can hardly move…it was time to toss out.

In the dress up box I find my old faded swim team sweatshirt, my teenage boyfriend’s HS football jersey, “Kurpiewski- 44.” “THAT goes,” Todd said.

I find my senior prom dress that my mother sewed for me, my mother’s net bridesmaid dress with a wooden hoop. My father’s bowling league shirt with “Joe” embroidered on the front pocket, my brother’s baseball caps that had “Little Slugger” embroidered on it, Sierra’s ballet slippers, my white leather majorette boots. My grandmother’s beaded dress that she gave me when she was in her late 90’s because she thought we were about the same size and it had been one of her favorites. My grandmother, who died peacefully at 103, never saw herself as old. I did wear that dress at a-celebration-of-her-life picnic a year after she died, when every member of my family wore a hat or a necklace of hers and we all cooked and baked the foods she was most famous for.

“I hate to get rid of this stuff,” I tell Todd.

“Who’s going to wear this? Are you and I going to play dress up?”

He has a point.

I find my mother’s champagne satin bedspread that she put on her wedding bed and matching satin curtains. I have an old black and white photo of her opening this present at her wedding shower. There is enough fabric there that we could have sewed Sierra a new wedding dress had we discovered this find before she made her dress purchase.

“This stays. I can sew a satin drawstring pouch for Sierra to carry at her own upcoming wedding to collect her wedding gift cards.”

When Sierra finds out what made the cut she asks if she can put the satin bedspread and pillow shams on her own wedding bed. Really? We just visited the cabin at the resort her and her fiance Eben will rent after her May wedding. It will be my supreme pleasure to wash and iron and make her wedding bed for her. I am sure her Grandmother Ross will be smiling down on her.

There are boxes of the children’s artwork- a box for each every year of their childhood. “I can’t go through them now,” I announce. Later. I want to find Bryce’s “Whale with a party hat” drawing- his very first drawing he made as a 4 year old. The very first thing he drew when he picked up a drawing tool, and now he is rapidly progressing as an up and coming illustrator. Where does the time go? I have a feeling Todd will be making multiple frames when we go through those boxes.

“I want my baby shoes for my child,” Sierra announced. I assure her that we saved them and with a little saddle soap, there was much life left in them. The majority of their clothing got burned, however.

“What good is it to keep this stuff?” I ask.

Time passes so quickly. These things reminds you that you had a rich full life, stuffed with memories. Do we keep these things around to make us happy when we touch and feel them, connect us to people who have passed on? But do we need stuff, memorabilia to conjure up those memories? They sure do help. But we have a small home and Todd believes, if we bring more into the house, something has to go out. That hasn’t been the case in these last twenty years. I need to purge and start new in this next stage of my life. Sierra is getting married, Bryce is finding his way and building a business and a life for himself. Although he has returned home in this interim period, his days are numbered too and we will soon lose his happy presence.

Todd said “our kids will have to go through all this stuff when we die.”

“Who is dying?” I ask.

“So keep this stuff around for a few more decades to go through another time or two?”

“Burn it.”

I was thinking of having a ceremonial burning-of-the-dolls campfire before Sierra flew back to Boulder to represent her morphing into a new chapter of her life. Much of the talk and planning around the house this last Christmas holiday revolved around wedding plans. But I decided to pass on that ritual.

I could not bring myself to toss the children’s sock dolls in that fire. Instead, I am thinking of having Todd make me a wooden shadow box to display them in. That can go on the wall along with “The Whale with a Party Hat.” Some things should not get burned. Not singing clowns nor sock dolls.

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16 thoughts on “A Ceremonial Burning of the Sock Dolls Leave a comment

  1. I love this. Especially since
    I’m going through Taz’s dress-up/toy closet right now, too. It brings back SO many memories. I’m afraid I’m not as good at letting it go. Tears and great stories, many that I probably would have forgotten if it wasn’t for the stuffed rhino or the painted puzzle or the gold
    Genie shoes. Such a journey being a mom.

    1. hi dear- funny we are doing this at the same time- must be a holiday thing! a transition thing. Maybe its our age, period in our lives.I have some GF who clean out a closet somewhere in their home every weekend. I never seem to have time for that. As my GF once got me a plague that says, “The way to avoid housework is to live outdoors.” I like it. That’s why i have accumulated so much stuff. I leave it! Love and miss you.

  2. Cindy – Happy New Year and many, many blessings to you and your amazing family!  I just received your Christmas letter and I continue to be astonished at all you guys do.  I didn’t send out cards these year, just recycled some from past years to a very few – pieces you would have also gotten through these many years.  I am however getting a jump for next Christmas season as I decided to create it this month come whatever.                If you and your gang are in these parts on Sunday, February 15th, come to the Institute Gallery 3 to 5 pm for our art alliance membership show opening.  Lots of goodies, wine, etc. and of course, good folks and good art.  Take care.  Love, Barbara    

  3. A sad story to me. I wish I had at least one thing from childhood to remind me, to remember something but all I have are bits of brief memories, some incomplete. Now we have pictures, but I’d never burn a good family photo. When I’m on my deathbed I want to see some of the things from a few decades ago. Just to be a child once again before I pass

  4. Powerful! It’s been a long time since I’ve had the patience to sit and read, your words make me feel right in the moment and I can totally relate.

  5. Makes me think about what is and is not important. We usually try to purge some of our stuff every year. And each time a lot of old memories flow back, good and bad. It is a difficult process but something that must be done. Things are never important as people and our relationship with them. Thanks for the post!!!! Keep posting and I’ll keep reading!

    1. thank you Earl- i am glad people like you out there are reading and relating because as writers/communicators, our job is to connect and make us all feel as though we are not alone in this grand life- even if no one read them, it makes me so happy to write them and get my thoughts down on paper so I understand what i am going thru in life and maybe someone out there can relate at the same time- WE HAVE TO MEET someday!

      1. You are very welcome! I enjoy your posts and yes, I read them all! I enjoy reading about things like this. It makes us pause and think about our own lives and to find out what is really important. Keep posting and I’ll keep reading. We surely will meet someday. If things go well for me hopefully I’ll be back on the AT in 2016 and maybe I’ll stop by for a visit. Not sure where but I’ll keep you posted.

  6. Love this! “Whale with a party hat”–too wonderful! And as for the dear sock dolls, glad you’ll keep the ones you want, but I can vouch for never forgetting certain dolls. I must have focused on them so intently that I remember their details and the kind of emotional attachment and meaning each had, even though I haven’t seen them for fifty-plus years.

    1. you are cute, Gail- thanks for the comment- Sierra kept saying “Oh, I forget about Heidi, I forgot about Whitey the Camper Cat” which I found hard to believe. i just think they were out of her sight for right now in her life!

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