Grown-Up Paper Dolls

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It was the mid-60s and I was miles away from home underneath my own kitchen table. Twice a year, I took this childhood journey of imagination whenever the new Sears and Roebuck catalog arrived. Not because of the wonder of go-go boots and dropped waists, but because the old catalog now belonged to me. The glamour lay not in the glossy, slick pages of printer’s ink and pajama bottoms, but in the exotic lands, visualized only by me and my own hand-cut paper doll.


Drawn away by flights of fantasy and last season’s fashion plates, I retreated twice a year to this secluded utopia underneath our century-old farm table. With a little creativity and a good pair of kitchen scissors, I could explore the lands of elephants and fauna, mountains and iguanas. From pages of photographs, I selected a paper doll who had eyes to see crashing waterfalls, ears to hear chattering wildlife, and a face to feel the chill of wind-blown sea spray. Chosen only from full-body options, my model had to have arms to pick up luggage and legs to explore the world’s antiquities.


The expedition for the perfect paper doll always began in the underwear section, as sparsely-clad subjects could more easily fit into any attire. Once a year, the summer swimsuit volume gave me even more options from which to choose. When selected and carefully cut out of her surroundings, I cemented my paper doll to a cardboard backing to ensure durability throughout her travels.


Packing was a breeze, dictated only by the seasonal fashion favorites. My paper doll had fur-lined parkas for the Himalayas, denim bellbottoms for trekking across Canada, and a velvet mini-dress with lace collar and cuffs for theatre in the West End. I even cut out a set of hot pink Samsonite luggage, which realistically could never have contained her massive wardrobe.


I spent many an hour under that dinette table. Dreaming and designing. On board and en route to destinations I would visit only in my mind’s eye. Whether chosen from a Sears catalog or from the influence of a godly mother, I found that the pattern always matters.


As a child, I played like a child, thought like a child, and reasoned like a child in my paper doll world. It was a sweet time of wonder and growth. Yet as an adult, maturity encourages me to put away the childish things and search for truth.


I wonder if my desires have truly matured? If I attain only what I seek, can time wasted on social media truly grant me peace and joy? Can setting my mind on the earthly things be any more valuable than sitting under the table cutting paper dolls?


If I truly desire the destination of joy and peace, I must realize that these cannot be found amidst the trivial and petty. I’m re-evaluating my mind’s journeys today. Does my soul travel give life and peace or merely entertainment? May God grant me the insight to choose the eternal pattern of the heavenlies over the flimsy imaginations of paper dolls.