Making do. I have no idea where that phrase came from, but it was my favorite game to play when I was young. My mother loved dolls and saw to it that my sister and I had many. I even had a boy doll. I called him Donald Eugene. I don’t think my mother ever was able to play with dolls. You see, she was the eldest girl and instead of playing with “doll” dolls, she got to play with the babies that followed. And her family was poor. Interesting, for her ancestors on her father’s side (both paternal and maternal) came to this country long before the Revolutionary War and they were all wealthy landowners. Nicholas Gassaway who arrived in 1764, ended up being the Provisional Governor of Maryland in the 1770s. His will declared that at his death all but one of his slaves were to be freed. That one was to spend the year teaching Nicolas’s sons how to manage the plantations and then was to be freed. But by the time my mother was born, the money and land had long ago disappeared. And so my mother made up for her lack of dolls as a girl by indulging my sister and me.
Mother was an amazing seamstress and as a result, we were not only the best-dressed girls in school, but we had dolls that were “dolled” up royally. Mother even made Halloween costumes for our dolls. She knit little mittens on toothpicks (if you can imagine!) and they even had thumbs! And she got Daddy in on the act. He made small steamer trunks for us, with drawers, and tiny hangers. He even found labels from other countries that he pasted on the black fake-leather sides. One of the costumes for my dolls had a hoop skirt. Daddy made the tiny wire circle that Mother pulled through the hem. Oh, my dolls were indeed fancy.
I loved the dolls and played with them until I was ten. But I had read “Huckleberry Finn” and fallen in love with the idea of “making do.” That meant that you took what little you had, and you made it do. So I would take my dolls, and a few pieces of clothes for them, pile onto my bed and float on the raft down the Mississippi. I don’t know if Mother knew what I was doing. She left my sister and me to our own devices. But now I hope that she didn’t. It wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate the clothes and the trouble. I think I did. But I also was somewhat embarrassed by my beautiful clothes and my dolls. Most of my friends were wearing hand-me-downs. Once one of my friends, Marion, make a comment, complimenting me on a dress, and I said, “This old rag.” She turned on me and said, “Don’t you ever talk like that again!” Marion deserved nice clothes for she was the prettiest girl in school and the boys all had crushes on her. It was a good lesson for me. I never referred to my clothes again. I also never said anything to my mother about her making my clothes. It became like the war fields that were mined during the war. I walked carefully.
And now I’m watching a show about Alaska on TV. I love it. They are constantly having to “make do.” Throughout my life, I’ve found ways to re-use and re-cycle things. My grandmother taught me how to unravel old knitted pieces, wash, dry, and rewind the yarn. I made mittens and scarves for my little ones. Made me feel frugal, like a pioneer. I have a friend who carries that to the extreme. I don’t. But I hold in highest esteem those who have to seriously “make do” in life. I’m impressed by their courage and resourcefulness. I think we need more of that. A little “hardship” isn’t such a bad thing if it makes us pay closer attention and appreciate more what we have. But I must be honest here, like with my dolls of old, I have a closet full of clothes, a pantry that is filled, and a warm and cozy home. Making do? Who am I kidding?