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First Person is a daily personal piece submitted by readers. Have a story to tell? See our guidelines at tgam.ca/essayguide.

Illustration by Drew Shannon

Through a silly mix-up, and a lapse in responsibility, I lost Samantha and Keladrie. It was totally my fault. I left them in the wrong area of the room, unsupervised and then they were gone. Despite frantic searches, they couldn’t be found.

Eighteen-inch high dolls, Samantha and Keladrie were special to my daughter, and to me. Samantha was a present for my daughter on her ninth birthday, 20 years ago; Keladrie was purchased about a year later, as a playmate for Samantha. For subsequent birthdays and Christmas presents, my daughter received all the adorable (and expensive) outfits made especially for the dolls. The three girls were fast friends right from the start.

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My daughter loved playing with dolls and stuffed animals. She would line them all up, with books in front of each, herself at the head of the class. I suppose they were the siblings she never had. And I must confess that I loved all the little bits of clothing and shoes we bought for them, so I guess I jumped right in, dressing them and helping to take care of them. They were our babies, coming with us on holidays, going into stores, reading bedtime stories together.

Now that I’m moving to a condo, I am going through everything in the house, trying to be brutally honest about what I will need, what can go to my wee cabin (not much), and what should be donated. In spite of the pandemic, a friend offered to help me pack and organize. To make a long story short, there was a mix-up between the pile in the living room that was going to the cottage and the pile to be donated. My friend kindly took the boxes she packed right to Value Village, and it wasn’t until a few days later I realized that Samantha and Keladrie were missing. I checked through the remaining bags and boxes again and again, but those girls had completely disappeared.

Once I realized the mix-up, I rushed over to Value Village to see if I could retrieve the girls. I couldn’t really explain, even to myself, why it mattered so much to me. Maybe I’m a little more emotionally fragile during COVID-19. Or maybe I felt I had been irresponsible. I should have been more clear about what was being kept and what was for donation.

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The sweet manager at Value Village said there might be a chance the girls were still in the backroom somewhere, still being sorted. She asked me for their descriptions. I felt like I was filing a police report. It was when she said, “I understand, they had sentimental value,” that I started to choke up as I described each girl’s hair colour, the clothes they were wearing when they were mistakenly donated, their little plastic arms and legs, plump cloth bodies. Gosh, I realized, Samantha had left the house without the little slippers that went with the green leggings that were part of the fairy costume she happened to be dressed in at the time. It started to sink in that, although the manager was carefully writing down all the details, the girls had probably already been placed in the store and sold. Gone. Around the same time, I realized how silly I was being. But I just couldn’t help it. They were like my friends, possibly like real children to me, but that’s probably a matter for Freud to address. I had watched Samantha and Keladrie grow up with my daughter. They were her babies. But I have to admit, I also liked playing dolls with my daughter, dressing them up in those adorable little outfits.

I came home and morosely went through the little doll-sized suitcase with all their clothes, pulling out each outfit, remembering each girl wearing it. Yes, there were the hiking shorts, with the co-ordinating top and jacket and hiking shoes with real laces. I remember Samantha coming with us on holidays to the Rockies, wearing her hiking outfit. I’ve always been a sucker for little baby shoes, and the doll-sized hiking boots were no exception. I pulled them out, put one on each finger, did up the laces, took a few steps.

“Okay, enough,” I told myself sternly and wondered who I could give the eight or so outfits to.

I called one of my friends whose daughter is the same age as mine. “Did your girls have this particular type of doll?” “Oh yes,” she said. She commiserated with my loss and said her girls would be happy to have the little suitcase full of clothes and shoes. My only condition was that I could come and play dolls sometime. She agreed, no questions asked.

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Samantha and Keladrie will always have a place in my heart and in my memories. I will always miss them. They were my daughter’s fun, loyal and uncomplaining companions, and an important part of her childhood – and my parenthood. I know that, somewhere out there, they’ve gone to a good home, where they will start a new life with some other children who will love them. And I can’t help smiling when I think of that.

Debra Scoffield lives in Toronto.

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