Muse Hymn Box
Web Master, Cathy T. Tudor, writes about "A Home for Retired Mannequins"
My muse is a dummy. That's not an insult. It's a fact. I spent one summer afternoon exploring one of my favorite junk shops in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I ascended narrow creaking steps, the walls plastered with old photos of Hollywood starlets. In the first room were shelves lined with Barbie dolls still in their boxes, toys from the fifties, and a display case of animal figurines. The next room stored furniture, an assortment of musty antiques, worthless to those who collect seriously, but hot items for anyone wanting to recreate an era that's not yet bygone. One door led to the next: a labyrinth of discard. And then I saw her, in the corner, hidden by a baby buggy, a mannequin sporting a black polyester dress and a curly, brown wig. She looked expensive at first glance--about $100.00--though I've since learned full mannequins are often priced much higher. There was a small crack in her right arm, and her wrist was taped as if to cover a gaping, self-inflicted wound. She hailed from the seventies, the days of my youth, which intrigued me even more. I went home without any purchases, but those blue eyes haunted me almost as much as the stuffed beagle I once saw in a department store when I was about seven-years-old. The beagle had a single felt teardrop glued to its cheek and I cried all the way home worrying about the little dog until my father returned to buy it for me, so it wouldn't be so sad.
The next morning I sat up from a sleepless night wondering what happens to retired mannequins. Do they work in clothing stores for so many years, until their eyelashes fall off, or their skin cracks, then end up as trash? I decided the one I saw needed a home, and called the store to see if anyone else had felt the same urgency I had. To my relief, she was still standing in the corner. I enlisted my sister to help. She is a professional dollmaker, and I knew if anyone would understand my lapse of sanity, she might. The mannequin was difficult to maneuver. The man who loaded my new friend into my sister's van actually apologized for having to slip his hand between the dummy's thighs to lift her off the stand. She's coming to life, I thought. She's going to whisper storylines in my ear. I can dress her up as some of my heroines, or as different muses, or for the holidays. My oldest niece named her Agatha after Agatha Christie.
Today my Agatha is dressed as an ancient Egyptian. I pieced together
her costume from the sale bins last Halloween. Friends bring her
gifts now. She has her own stuffed cat. I had an imaginary playmate
as a child, and I suppose my new muse brings out the little girl
in me. That little girl is who I need to whisper storylines in my