M.I.Y. #2 - Walking with Wanda

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My Imagined Youth

wanda.jpg
One piece of housekeeping before we begin. In my first piece I refered the to four post war kids in my family as the "contemporaries" and the three who came later as "LOBC - Lack Of Birth Control" kids. The LOBCs seemed to like the shorthand so I'm changing the first group to PWBS - Post War Baby Siblings.


My PWBS will surely remember this episode from the summer of 1956 wherein Chris and I had a terrifying experience with one of Jane's Dolls.

wanda_sketch.jpgI don't know why my parents bought Wanda the Walking Doll for Jane for Christmas. I suppose they thought it was a cool doll when they saw her in the store. Wind her up with the giant key protruding from her side and she did this mechanical slide/walk, slowly extending one leg and then the other as she rolled on wheels embedded in her feet. The accompanying whir of gears and springs unwinding was a nice touch.

It scared the shit out of Jane.

One look at this Metropolis Robot meets Shirley Temple and she'd let out a scream and head in the other direction. Wanda was soon relegated to the basement where her clothing disappeared and she huddled under the wash sink, seething with resentment. She was a modern marvel of mechanical engineering and that stupid kid would just turn and run. That kid didn't know a good thing when she saw it. Wanda waited and plotted her revenge.

The next summer Chris and I went downstairs looking for another of my father's tools that we could use to fix our bikes and then leave in the yard to rust into uselessness. School was out and we had plenty of time on our hands. Once the bikes were running properly and the appropriate baseball card was fluttering between the spokes, we'd be off to cruise the neighborhood looking for good, wholesome fun. I grabbed an open end wrench and handed Chris the pliers. We turned to head up the stairs when we heard it "Pssst".

"Did you just cut one?" Chris asked, his face already screwed into disgust. "No, it must have been you." was my snappy rejoinder.

"Pssst"

This time it was obvious that the noise was coming from back by the wash sink. We both turned and looked for the bug or small animal that might be making the noise. Nothing was there. I walked closer to the sink, figuring that something might be down near the drain.

That"s when I felt the tug on my pants leg. I jumped back and looked down. Wanda stood there, naked, covered with dust and motioning with her finger. I looked at Chris to confirm that he saw what I saw. From the way his eyes were bugging out and the slack expression of his jaw, I knew that he did. Her finger waggled again and I was drawn to bend down that look into her eyes.

A wave of dizziness swept over me, forcing me to clutch the sink to stay upright. Chris stood behind me, jaw still slack, eyes unfocused. Wanda's mouth didn't move but we heard the words. "Get that little brat down here. Bring her to me so that I can teach her the marvels of modern mechanics. Bring her to me. Tell her you have something to show her. Tell her it is really cool. Bring her to me."

We nodded in unison. The summer day disappeared. The bicycles were forgotten. We had just one mission. I swayed as I stood and turned around. With sliding footsteps we headed toward the stairs. In exquisite mechanical synchrony Chris and I took one step at a time. Turning through the dining room, we slid toward the back bedroom where Jane was playing. We would bring her.

The voices sounded disconnected when we found her playing with Colorforms on the floor of her room. "Jane, come look. We found something really cool!" Chris started. "Yeah, you gotta see this thing downstairs, it's really cool!" I continued. "Mom says you should come and look - it's a surprise."

Perhaps it was the fact that she had been at those damned Colorforms for a couple of hours already, but she just got up and said, "Okay." She didn't notice our gliding footsteps as we led her back to the basement stairs. She didn't notice our falling to position, me in front and Chris behind, as we descended. We led her back to our father's workbench, the darkest corner of the basement. Smell of damp concrete, wood and laundry soap hung in the air. The cobwebs fluttered with our movements.

The noise started from behind us. "Ching-ching-ching-whir" - the right foot. "Ching-ching-ching-whir" - the left. We stepped aside. The dust was gone from Wanda's naked, plastic body. She seemed larger. Her bright blue eyes held us speechless. She was coming. She would teach Jane to marvel at modern mechanics.

Wanda moved inexorably closer. The feet slid and the windup key twirled in her side. She was five feet away, then four, then three. As the next foot extended toward us, Jane let out a bloodcurdling scream. The basement window rattled. The glass jar of screws on the workbench shattered. Chris and I snapped back into the present. Our mother flew down the stairs.

"What are you DOING!?!?!?" she shrieked at us. In one fluid motion she backhanded Wanda off her feet and into the side of the washing machine, smacked both Chris and me across the head, and scooped up Jane. Wanda's legs continued to move, bumping against the side of the washer uselessly. My mother looked down at the helpless doll and kicked it back under the sink. The legs stopped as the head flopped at a strange angle. "I should have thrown that damned thing out right after Christmas. And YOU, YOU, what possessed you to do this to your sister? How would you like it if I scared you this way? Get up to your room; I'll deal with you later." She stormed past us and up the stairs with Jane sobbing in her arms.

Chris looked at me dumbfounded. We had no idea what she was talking about. We just came down to get some pliers and the next thing we knew we were getting smashed for no reason whatsoever. Why should we get hit because Jane was playing with that dumb doll?

It was only years later that we came to understand what happened that summer day; how we were spellbound by the doll; how we were duped into putting our dear sister in harm's way. The beating we received hurt at the time, but better a beating for us than losing our little sister.

We were just happy that it turned out okay.

14 Comments

Wait, I'm confused. Was this the doll that you recorded "Moe Hair" on? Am I imagining this piece of the story? These are better than Oscar Stories.

This was another, prior doll. I still have nightmares...

ahh. the wanda doll. i've heard horror stories from aunt jane about her. as for the 2 of you torturing saving your baby sister? (you can deny it all you want, i know you both and i won't believe it wasn't you) good work =)

love you aunt jane!

I want the Moe Hair story. I always thought the 2 were one. And YOU were not scarred. It seems to me that you and Chris were responsible always concerned for the other 5's emotional distress.

The "Moe Hair" story will have to wait for another time. I think that this story may dredge up some unpleasant memories for Jane, young and impressionable as she was when this occured, and facing the truth about her "Moe Hair" song might just be too much for her on the heels of dealing with this. I just hope that the inevitable post traumatic stress that she suffered from Wanda didn't blur her recollection of this horrid incident.

Fact and fantasy may blur, but the Walking Wanda was Vickie's, not mine, and my dear brother Robert was the one scared shitless by it. This does not detract from the terrific tale set above, but it does put an interesting spin on it.

Moe Hair and my "Little Miss Echo" doll are two separate stories, and different from the time that my dear brothers disassembled by baby 'Christine' doll, re-assembled it with arms and limbs in unnatural positions, and chased me around the house, Chris holding the eyes out in each grubby little hand before him.

And yes, I am scarred.

But all the stronger for it, no doubt...

Dad, how about the story of you building furniture/pillow barricades against the front window in your sleep?

Wanda, Wanda, Wanda. A tainted gift from Uncle Joe, Dad's older brother, my godfather. Brown curly hair, rollerskate feet, her whining wheels were the stuff of nightmares. Many tales of Wanda exist, but the truth is as elusive as five blind men and an elephant. I guess that's true of our selective memories, too. We all nurture our own personal past. Why not? It's ours, after all.
Now I do remember a decapitated Wanda wheeling into our upstairs bedroom. Whirrr, whirrr, scree,
scree--it's Wanda, as headless as the nefarious horseman, wheeling after little Janie. Snickering brothers skulk in the hall.
Bad boys, bad boys
Whacha gonna do?
Whacha gonna do when she comes for YOU!!??
Wanda's body was never recovered. Her whereabouts, unknown.
Is she a threat to the next generation? An interesting question. Give the scarred sister a break. No more doll pictures, please. One traumatic incident at a time per sibling.
We all have our bumps in the night.
Oh Wanda...

Okay, THAT's why I don't remember Wanda - I didn't recognize the head shot!!

I thought that I might have found have found Wanda in my room when I was living upstairs circa 1990. It was a cold, dark November night. At about 1:00 AM I saw this large hairy mechanical thing under some pants in between a weeks worth of towels and my dirty T-shirts. The pile moved, and a bone-chilling groan came form the pile. I used a wiffle ball bat to move the pants (you wouldn't touch my laundry) just to find that it was one my friends who fell asleep from the night before.

I am sitting here in Chicago, supposedly working but instead laughing my head off (out loud, I might add) at the visuals conjured inside my brain. I remember the mischief, the antics, the devil in you boys. I am wondering what the total lifetime cost of therapy is for a family of nine.

t.

How much are these dolls worth? Mint condition, original box. please let me know. thanks

I am new at this so I hope you are getting this message. I have a Wanda doll. She is almost 55 years old. She has a blue searsucker dress and hat and has brown hair. She is in perfect shape,and is in the original box. I have been unable to find out the manufacturers name. It is not on the box,nor on her.I won't take her apart to see if the name is on her body. If you can give me any information on her, I would appreciate it. Thank You CP

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This page contains a single entry by published on February 1, 2004 10:22 AM.

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