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Self Portrait

November 1983, no. 56

Self Portrait

November 1983, no. 56

There was a child went forth every day,
And the first object he looked upon and received with wonder or pity
or love or dread, that object he became …
(‘There was a child went forth every day’, Walt Whitman)

When I was seventeen, I sold my doll and all her little frocks and coloured, knitted things. At the time I thought I ought to sell her, it seemed important to have some extra money. She was advertised for £1. It was near Christmas – a good time for selling.

A woman came and I saw her alone with the doll in the front room where my mother had made a fire, as she did only on Christmas Day and other holidays.

The parting with the doll made an unexpected dark space all around me. I never admitted to anyone that I gave the doll to the woman whose sharp, unfriendly eyes intimidated me, and whose tale of a little girl who had never had a doll filled me with shame.

My mother and sister were waiting in the early dusk of the winter afternoon: ‘Where is the money?’ my sister said to my empty heart. ‘In my purse of course,’ I lied.

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