Two Dates, Two Dolls

He was tall and lanky. She was short with a great smile. They were the leads in the school play at Des Moines Tech high school in 1947.

They flirted on and off stage. They even had a kissing scene. Joanne knew Bill was the one.

Bill asked her out. On their first date, he showed up at her doorstep with a dime-store present, a Nancy Ann storybook doll. It had a bisque body with a beautiful dress and matching hat.  On the second date, Bill brought a second doll.

Joanne was good at art. She took classes at Drake University. When the Korean War started in 1950, Bill did not and could not serve. His feet were as flat as pancakes.

Then Bill got sick.  He couldn’t walk. He ended up in the hospital with polio. Joanne came to visit him every day. Bill got better, with only a limp in one leg to remind him of his polio days.

Bill and Joanne fell in love and decided to get married. Joanne gave up her art degree dream and dropped out of college.  It was 1951.

Nine months later, their first child was born. The due date was supposed to be St. Paddy’s Day, but the baby came a week early. So Patty became Barbara instead.  Three years later Susan was born. Three years after that came Nancy — three little girls in matching homemade dresses and crooked bangs. Then the first son was born two years after that.  The last baby came five years later, another boy.

Bill worked the same job as a printing pressman all those years. He brought home piles of paper for the kids to draw on. He got his ring finger caught in the printing press once and lost the tip of it. After that his nickname was Stubby.

The family moved only once, but somehow the Nancy Ann storybook dolls were thrown out.  After Bill got cancer and died at the too-young age of 56, Joanne looked and looked for the dolls, but they were gone.

It is now thirty-two years later. Joanne has a huge collection of Nancy Ann storybook dolls. They aren’t the same ones that Bill gave her, but her daughters keep looking.

Couldda Wouldda Shouldda

I am child and daughter number two, and I inherited my dad’s flat feet.


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