He was born first, with nine more following in fairly steady succession. there were supposed to be three more, but when his mother was pregnant with the twins she got mugged for the one dollar she was taking to the store to buy milk with. From the attack they were born alive in the Chicago snow then died of exposure. Before that her own mother-in-law spitefully flung open a heavy door and the massive iron handle struck her in the abdomen and she miscarried that singleton.
The four sisters of course all played with dolls.
An abuelita as the years passed, his mother, when asked what she wanted for her birthday, answered “A doll.” She and her birth family were always so poor that as a child she could never have a doll. Her son got her a doll.
As a youngster and as a teen he would get mad at his sisters and rip the heads off their dolls, the girls crying bitterly. To two or three of them, now they are all adults, he has abashedly offered his apologies.
At the end of his mother’s life there was tremendous discord: one brother had cheated her out of her house, another claimed she had appointed him medical power of attorney, and no he wouldn’t let the eldest see their mother in the hospital. The financial flim-flammer preceded her in death by a year, the oldest paying for his mass and burial. No-one would give the doll back to their sibling, the man who bought it, and it was never to be seen again.
This oldest child had a child late in life, and he bought her dolls, just as he had for the previous two from the previous wife. The last daughter was a tomboy; she did not even like dolls. After several attempts went scorned, he finally stopped buying them. Some time later she allowed as how scared she’d been because of some horror-movie doll she had seen once on television; the young adult knowledge of what had triggered a doll-aversion did nothing to rekindle fond wishes for one.
And so he buys dolls now and then, for himself, for the Christmas tree, he claims.
I think they are atonements.