The Doll We Loved The Stuffing Out of

Polly-Archo wasn't really his name, at least not in the beginning. He was a cheerfully colored clown doll, and my aunt suggested that ''Pagliacci'' would be appropriate. But since the oldest of us was 10 (the others were 7, 4, and 1), Polly-Archo was as close as we ever came, and the name stuck.

We were his family, my cousins and I. We lived some distance apart, but we saw each other often, and we stayed close not only during our growing-up years, but throughout our lives. Polly-Archo was ours, collectively, and he was loved and hugged to the limit of his endurance.

My cousins moved into a farming community in Connecticut just before summer vacation one year, and we were driving to visit them one rainy Saturday. The directions were imprecise: an RFD address, no street numbers, and farmhouses spaced along a country road.

We drove through the pelting rain, feeling as if we would never find the place. But who should be there by the roadside to greet us but Polly-Archo!

My aunt had placed him in a doll's chair with a big black umbrella over his head, and there he sat with his usual welcoming grin. No journey ever had a more joyful conclusion!

As we kids grew, so did our affection. Polly-Archo never changed, but continued to fill a special place in all our games and celebrations, although now he usually sat by and kept us company as we played Parcheesi or Monopoly or did our homework.

The Depression came and went; he survived, and so did we. By this time, he was pretty ragged and grungy, in spite of my aunt's efforts to clean and mend him. I was in high school. When vacation time came, I went for my summer visit. No Polly-Archo! My aunt told me the final chapter of the story, and we laughed and cried a little.

The poor clown had reached an advanced stage of disintegration, and something had to be done. My aunt gathered her resolve, and while the younger children were at school she placed him on the top of the trash barrel just before the trash man came to make his collection. She felt so sad that she decided to go into the city and buy a new hat - the standard remedy for small sadnesses in those days.

As she got off the trolley on her way home, she spied the trash man completing his rounds with his horse and wagon. Before she had time to feel sad again, she saw our old friend. He was propped up on the wagon seat beside the driver, on his way to a new adventure!

Dilapidated as he was, a new family was in his future, to love and welcome him as we had done!

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