Friday, February 15, 2019

Polly-Wally Doodle

by Lorraine Bartlett / Lorna Barrett / L.L. Bartlett


A few years ago, I had never read an issue of Woman's World, a weekly magazine. Then my publisher put a small plug for one of my Booktown Mysteries in it. I bought that copy and thought--wow, with that circulation, I'm sure to have a gazillion sales. Ha! No uptick in sales. I don't even think I read the magazine.

Fast forward 4-5 years and an author group I'm part of decided to poll readers to see what magazines they read most often. I was astounded to see that Woman's World came up first--by a long shot. So, 18 months ago, I decided to see what the attraction was. I was at our summer cottage and went into town to get the Rochester newspaper, but the grocery store was sold out. I went to Dollar General to get envelopes (because I had to mail a contract to my agent) and at the checkout were copies of Women's World. On impulse, I bought one. I read it from cover to cover that night. The next week, I bought another.  And the next week, yet another.  After about a month, I bought a subscription. because there were so many features I enjoyed, like the mini mystery and mini romance. And it amuses me how every cover boasts some kind of diet, but also some kind of stunningly fattening confection. (Go figure!)

So what does this have to do with anything?

Last week's issue had a one-paragraph article about doodling. If you doodle, you're an artist.

I don't doodle. But my mother did. When she'd be talking on the phone, she'd draw women's faces on the back of envelopes, on white space on the newspaper. Whenever she'd doodle, it was always women's faces. I wish I'd asked her why, but it was just a thing Mum did.  When I was going through her things, I found a lot of them.  I cut them out and saved a bunch of them.

I think she was influenced by paper dolls. She used to make her own when she was a kid. I doubt she ever had more than one or two toys in her entire life, so paper dolls were what she had to play with--and nothing glossy and commercially made. She used to cut out the Betsy McCall paper dolls that came out of McCall's magazine and give them to me. I remember her buying me paper dolls (Barbie, for one). She could buy paper doll books from Dover. I think she had one for Audrey Hepburn as My Fair Lady, and I know she had a bunch of Shirley Temple paper doll books (as well as Princess Diana). Not that she cut them out or played with them. She just liked to look at them.

So when I saw that article about doodling and creativity it just brought her back to me so vividly. She wasn't a writer, but she was a voracious reader. (She sewed, she knitted, and could do just about every craft.) She instilled in me a love of reading. She introduced me to mysteries. She only had a 9th grade education (kids left school at 14 in England in those days), but she was so well-read my father always said she had the equivalent of four university degrees.  I don't doubt that. No matter what problem I had, I could always call her up and ask her advice. And although she wasn't a good money manager herself, she gave the best advice. I became a saver because of her (and my Dad).

I had one of those "lady heads" among the papers on my desk for the last couple of years and now it seems to have disappeared. I'm going to go through that big box of papers in my guest room (which still has way too many of her possessions that I still haven't been able to part with) and when I find one of those lady heads, I'm going to frame it and hang it over my computer desk to remind me of her and her doodling.

Do you have a fond memory of someone you've lost?

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