Last summer, while rummaging our bodega, I came across a tattered doll sitting quietly by the broken TV sets. It wore a red hat and an oversized dress smeared with rat poop and urine. Its back was ripped; the cotton inside it dangled out. I cringed at the sight of a childhood that was long forgotten and abandoned. But the doll was familiar.

It was my first playable doll. It was Tekla.

When I said playable, I meant it. While I had many dolls before, my mother forbade me from playing them. The toys I had before ended up as displays in my room (or rather, dust collectors) so imagine how grateful I had been to my Auntie Norma and Uncle Louie when I received the doll in the morning of January nineteensomething.

I woke up to see my father getting ready for work, who after seeing me, pointed to a rag doll still wrapped in its plastic, an SM orange sticker placed on it. It was sitting among the pile of presents we had just finished unwrapping during the New Year celebration. My father said it was for me.

Ecstatic, I asked Papa what name I should give her. He told me to name the doll Tekla.

I had no idea why my father suggested that name, which I now learned to be a variation of shit or poop in Filipino (but I also found out it means “glory of God” in Greek, too). But I actually went for that name. It was easy to remember, anyway, and catchy, too. So, from that day on, I called her Tekla. My parents called her Tekla. Even my playmates do not just refer to her as “your doll” but Tekla. Everyone in our lane knows the name of my doll version of Little Red Riding Hood.

Seeing her again put me in a flashback. It was as if Tekla was walking me down memory lane.

Tekla enjoying a bath after many years of being with rats and roaches.

Back then, my playmates and I would do role-playing games. Sometimes we role-play Power Rangers; sometimes we role-play whatever we could imagine or think of. There was one particular time though, where we decided to play bahay-bahayan or that role-playing wherein you are one big family and assign who’s the the mother, the father, or even the family doctor. I was to play the mother then. A pregnant mother. So a playmate suggested I stuff Tekla into my dress to make me look like I’m pregnant.

I found the idea so awkward and absurd I decided to quit playing and, with my doll, I went home instead.

I could also recall the time when I danced with Tekla so forcefully I ripped her right arm apart. I panicked right then and was almost in tears when I saw her dismembered, but Auntie was to the rescue. She mended Tekla right away.

Tekla was more than a doll for me back then. She was a younger sister, a confidant. Yes, I have a brother to play with, but of course I preferred someone of the same gender. And it was Tekla for me.

I do miss those moments when the only problems were about how to sneak out the house during siesta time or how we will be able to outwit the other team in patintero. When the only worries were how great my baon was and how to get Mama buy me that one toy I’ve always wanted. Or just getting so pumped up in finishing my homework so that I could go out and play. Life was less complicated back then. Life was full of enjoyment and bliss. Life was easy.

Life is getting tougher as I grow older, no doubt about that; I now have bills to pay, I am faced with bigger responsibilities, I also worry about whether I’d be able to make my dreams come true or end up living a life of frustrations because I fell short. More often than not, I would eventually wear out from all of the stress of juggling priorities in life. How I wish I could just press the pause button and rest from being an adult for just a while.

I have to agree with older people now, who would often tell us when we were younger to enjoy life while we can, to not rush on growing up. Kids do not worry; they just take pleasure in life.

Although tattered and reeking, I asked Mama if I could keep Tekla at home. There’s just something about the doll that makes it difficult for me to dump her into the trash bag. It’s like a part of me was in her. A happy, if not always happy, childhood. She was a reminder that I have experienced living the life of a normal child.

I assured my mother that I will wash Tekla first before bringing her inside the house.

Tekla is now in my room, sitting quietly, and waiting when I come home from Quezon City. And she’s doing a good job of reminding me that sometimes, I have to loosen up a bit, get rid of stress, rest for a while and enjoy life. Just like the child I was back then. Back when it was only Tekla and me. CV

Edited by author. Originally published on Live Journal, 06 July 2011 @ 10:43 am.


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