That’s a portmanteau that I just made up about discovering a new-to-you thing that brings a sensation of euphoria.  “Newphoria.”  I like it.  AND, I like the new sensation of euphoria brought on by a tooootally random thing.  And I have one of those.

Junkyard Josephine

Junkyard Josephine

It really all started with the guest room renovation, although distantly.  I’ve been working really hard on it, and I’ve gotten very near to done…  I had amassed a large wad of stuff to stitch, which I was kind of putting off in the hopes that I would find some third fabric that I would love and would tie it all together.  (I’d really just like some apricoty gingham, but that seems impossible to find.  Ugh.)  In other words, I was sort of procrastinating.  While procrastinating, I am at least smart enough to appear to be busy, so I was going through the various vintage suitcases that will be stored underneath the guest bed, and in the process I found my/ my mother’s old 20″ Miss Revlon doll.

Now, this doll and I– we have a bit of a hilarious history.  I don’t know why, but the day she came into our life is very clear to me.  Isn’t strange when that happens?  Random memories not tied to a holiday or occasion…  I probably remember this completely normal, average day, with more clarity than say, I remember my high school graduation.    No really good reason for that, and I can’t explain it.  (I wonder, if this were Our Town, and I were Emily, would this be my day back in Grover’s Corners?)

It was just about this time of year, warm, but windy, and on that day we had just had a spring rain, one of those wet, washy types– you know, a proper shower, not really a storm.  So everything was wet and puddley, despite it being sunny skied outside.  I was about eight or nine years old, so, as much as I hate to give away my age, it was thirty years ago.  For whatever reason, my little sister was not with Mom and I on this day of driving around and doing errands, and that may have been part of the reason it was unusual.  Its possible I was out of school that day for a dentist’s appointment or some such, but that doesn’t explain why we didn’t have toddler in tow.  I wish my brain worked like our DVR does.

Anyway, Mom spotted this “antiques” place, and I use the quotes of dubiousness only because one could have also called it a junkyard, despite having some actually valuable antiques on the property.  Nowadays that owner would have been termed a hoarder, and I’m sure Mike and Frank would have picked over every bit of interesting on his property, but back then, it was sort of a weird establishment.  Let me just say– in case you do not actually know me– I have been to a junk store or two in my life.  Or two thousand.  Like, when I go on vacation, I go to thrift stores.  This place was unlike all others:  old fridges with their doors open and egg divots filled with floating acorns; claw-footed tubs overflowing with bent, rusty bike parts; cracked, colored toilet seats looped over art nouveau statuary.  Picture this– a heavy, brick, mission-style, bungalow on a small square of city block property, surrounded by chain-link, and then, as if filled from some enormous dump-truck in the sky, stocked with “treasures.”  Even at the time, I struggled to identify anything of value amongst what I perceived to be mostly trash.

And my mother talking– that’s the other thing I remember.   I remember Mom talking to the tired-looking guy that ran the place.  If you know my mother, you are likely shaking your head with amused recognition at this point, because my mother talking is almost akin to her breathing– it is happening.  All the time.  Its truly one of her talents, as she’s not a gossip– she’s simply a wise woman with a lot to say, and stranger or loved one, no one falls out of the scope of conversation.

I don’t know if she already knew that guy, or if it was their first, or only encounter.  I do recall that before she found the doll, they talked for a long, long, time– so long that her digging around in his ‘wares’ seemed to be more out of sympathy and duty to the browse than an actual belief that she would find anything she desired.  As in, she had looked and talked, and talked and looked for such a period of time that the ‘sales’ part of the show had grown awkward, and there was a fear on their parts about whether or not a purchase was going to actually be made.  Its hard to be a person’s only customer of the day and not buy something….

So, when she found this doll, I was positive she must be joking.  It was soooo nasty, ya’ll, I saw zero appeal.  And I LOVE lady dolls, they are one of my *things,* but in the case of this Miss Revlon, I just did not get it.  Her hair appeared to have been chopped and was matted; her eyes were frosted over and didn’t wink properly; her dress had a greasy sheen; and her body was so, so filthy.  Mom went on and on and on about how she still had her shoes.  I think the shoes were the sale-maker for her, all the while, I’m sure that I was thinking in terms of Barbie, and how, in my world, doll shoes were easy to come by.  Mom paid for her (I have *no idea* how much), and kept talking.  At some point, I took her purchase out to the car.  (No bag, mind you, it wasn’t that kind of establishment.)

This is one of those points that I remember with such clarity–  I’m in the passenger seat of our Celica, which is parallel-parked on the street in front of this “antiques store” (sorry ya’ll, I just can’t think it without a hint of sarcasm creeping in).  She finally finishes her social time with the owner, and as she comes through that front gate, she shuts the latch and turns to see that I am hanging this poor dolly out of the car window by the heel.


I believe, at this moment, I chunked this precious antique into the back seat of the Toyota.  Poor thing.  Who would have ever thought I would end up with her?  Mom, able to see her as the beautiful and most-desired doll of her childhood, didn’t understand my disdain; and I, having never seen an 20″ Miss Revlon in all of their very real glory, could not comprehend her new-found affection for it.

That afternoon she made her way into our home, where my mother scrubbed her every crevasse with a toothbrush, and tried to restore this longed-for doll of youth to some form of her original beauty.  Her dress and hat were soaked and mended, and in the end, she was reassembled with some great success.  She has stayed, pretty much unchanged, in that original version of herself all along, even in my storage.

My Version Of A 50's Outfit

My Version Of A 50’s Outfit

So imagine me, thirty years later, sitting on the floor of my almost-done guest room, rummaging around amongst my childhood Madame Alexanders and Effanbees, and finding this elegant, but oh-so-tired young lady.  Her last ‘spa time’ with Mom was more than half of her lifetime ago, and boy howdy, she deserves another.  You know what’s weird?  Her shoes were dirty in a realistic wear pattern, where her foot and shoe met, all the dust collected, I guess.  But it looks like she’s been standing in ’em, working hard… its so strangely realistic.  So I vow to give her a little bath, and see if I can work on her look a little.  I set her aside for a little time and decide to research cleaning her up.  I go back to my sewing pile to work on the guest room, or I do in theory, anyway.

I am still not yet ready to work on the projects for the guest room, and I start picking up, tossing the bits from the curtain lengthening experience into the scrap bin, and thinking about who could use them.  My thoughts turn to Andrea (, a dear friend of mine who manages to spin delightful, tiny dolly fashions from the tiniest bits of cotton…  I envy her skill with those tiny little bits, I have lost many an hour looking at her flickr pages and marveling over the fact that many of her blouses feature actual, working buttonholes, and her collars and cuffs turn naturally and aren’t bulky.  She’s a wizard, ya’ll.  And a sweet one too.

Anyway, I’m thinking of her, and her skill, and I have a moment of clarity– I bet sewing for an 20″ doll isn’t anything like stitching for a super-skinny 11″ monster.  At this moment, I take the bits from the guest room fabrics back out of the scrap bag.  Maybe this dolly girl doesn’t just need a bath, maybe she needs a dress, too.

This thought renews my intention to work on her, and fuels me to come up with something wonderful for her to wear… and maybe to sit on.  I start doing research on how to best clean her up, and as it turns out, the news is no different than with my vintage Babs, except that I must take special care with those eyes.

Other than holding her out the window, all of my knowledge of her is pretty sketchy; like the years from the past where she wasn’t ours, as well as what actions my mother took on cleaning her up so many years ago.  (I have repeatedly forgotten to ask Mom when I’ve had her on the phone.)  Its quite possible I *still* didn’t know her potential.

So finally, we’re to the ‘newphoria’ part:  I combed out her hair.  Doesn’t sound exciting, does it?  I guess I thought it was too short, or missing, or frizzled, or something, it was pretty badly matted in places.  I put a thick layer of cheap, hydrating conditioner on her hair to soak in for a little bit, and left her, face down for a few hours.  (This is more to maintain her eyes than out of disprespeck, yo’.)  When I came back with my little comb, I began to very slowly comb it out in sections.  The bangs weren’t bad, but they never had been, and the back is pretty short, so I got around her head pretty quickly.  Then I started looking at the roots and the plug patterns, and there was this matty area right around the front part of the crown, and–  **I have to interrupt to admit that I am embarrassed to say this, but it was the closest thing to compare it to** when I combed it out, I was so relieved to see that her ‘do was salvageable, and that she would be restored in a whole new way, it was positively orgasmic, it was so delightful.  I literally squealed.  Right there, in the bathroom, combing out goopy doll hair.  What the Hell is wrong with me?!  It is just– so, so, so much of an improvement.  Like if you took her to the dolly barber shop and you were picking her ‘do out from the sign, she just went from “Hack Job” to “Bubble Cut” with the use of a comb.  It made her suddenly pretty.

So, from that point, it got fun.  I started making her an outfit out of the guest room scraps, and I’m kinda hooked.  I would love for her to have a whole freaking coordinated wardrobe.  With shoes, and hats, and bags, and jewelery…  And I also want a Uneeda Dollikin, please, a jointed one, to be her friend.  In either the jet black hair with the widow’s peak, or a redhead, or, er, both.  I’ll get them a bunk bed.  So, yeah.  Bad, bad, funtime dolly.

Dressed-Up Diva

Dressed-Up Diva

LIGHT BULB.  I get it, Mom.  You wanted her because she’s a beautiful, fashionable, elegant lady doll.  She’s like a ginormous Barbie, but from the decade I’ll likely never have a vintage Barbie from (as they didn’t come out until ’59, and those are so so so rare), my favorite of the fashion decades, the fifties.  She’s totally fun.  And I may be in big trouble, because I’m certainly hooked!

I’m filled with so much newphoria that I may have to name her “Natalie Portmanteau.”


(Author’s Note– after writing this post and referring to her as a “Miss Revlon” throughout, I did some rather extensive research.  That is what I believed her to be because that is what Mom has always called her, but this gal is actually a 20″ Deluxe Reading Fashion Doll.  And well, I’m just not going to go through this thing and fix them all to say “Deluxe Reading Fashion Doll,” its just kinda not as much fun sounding.  Deluxe, maybe, but rather wordy.  And not personal-sounding.  This little lady needs a name.)



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