When I was about 8 years old, with an imagination still wild and bolstered by my unflinching devotion to it, I spent my time caring for a number of small dolls who lived on the bottom shelf of my bookcase. Each doll had a private room separated by cardboard walls and fully furnished with makeshift miniature furniture. These small dolls, though unique in form and origin, were all about one inch tall. I brought them along to most places I went, though I was forced to leave them at home when I went to school. To soften the blow of this separation, I “checked in with them” by whispering into a freckle on my forearm as if it were a telephone.
The bond between me and these inanimate objects was complex and tender and lasted for well over a year. As I neared the end of 4th grade, however, I began to lose interest in this constant game. I noticed that the bottom shelf of my bookcase was no longer the first stop when I arrived home after school and that, more often than not, I was leaving the dolls home when I went out in the evenings and on weekends. This was a natural change but it made me sad, as if, and perhaps I was, experiencing my first “falling out of love.” It was a painful and slow truth but the thought of the dolls collecting dust as I neglected them more and more seemed like a self-betrayal.
And so, I created what I now understand to be my first ceremony. I collected shoe boxes and prepared each doll’s burial site, in Egyptian style, with all their belongings. I laid the boxes out in a circle around me and placed the doll in the respective coffins one by one, adding special stones and even a crystal in one box which had been given to me by my mother’s new age friend. I recall telling them I would always be there for them and thanking them for all they had given me.
What was this strange series of actions? Where did this idea come from? Was it part of the game, or was I mimicking something I had seen done in the world? I didn’t wonder then and I am unsure now. I know I was eight and I did what I needed to do to honor that which I had created and no longer needed. I recall closing the boxes and later handing them to my father who stood on a ladder and placed them at the top of my closet.
I am now 35, living in New York City working as an artist, performer, teacher, and ceremonialist.