The Nesting Dolls | Teen Ink

The Nesting Dolls

January 8, 2009
By Jane Danstrom BRONZE, Palatine, Illinois
Jane Danstrom BRONZE, Palatine, Illinois
4 articles 0 photos 0 comments

She belonged to a quiet world. Encased in wooden replicas of her tiny frame, sound did not travel easily to her. Through her countless number of painted exoskeletons she could hear very little of the world.
She had once been a tree, standing tall in a forest in a place she could not name. She was cut down, run through a wood mill and crafted into a blank Russian nesting doll. She spent some time on an air plane, being flown to a place called “Chicago,” where she was bought by an old Russian woman, tiny in her shrunken old lady way. The old Russian woman padded slowly around her shop, searching with her weakening watery blue eyes for paints and brushes and dolls. Sunlight streamed through the slightly dirty windows, revealing the dust motes floating in the air of the tiny workroom.
For weeks she sat on the top shelf in the dusty shop, surrounded by vulnerably bare dolls similar to her, sitting in quiet anticipation of the life awaiting her. For weeks she watched the old women work, humming quietly to herself music from the old country as dabbed paint on to the naked wooden figures. For weeks she sat in silence, waiting to be picked up by the wrinkled hands and given a shield of paint and glitter.

She was the smallest doll. No larger than three centimeters, she sat at the center of the nesting dolls, serving as the heart of this particular set of dolls. She watched her family be painted by the gnarled artisanal hands. Their wooden outsides were slightly garish, covered with fuchsia paint and bright faces, like overly made up children. The biggest doll had the most intricate face of all her sisters, with long eyelashes, blushing cheeks, and a tiny red pout of a mouth. She was covered from the tip of her babushka to bottom of her base in glitter, with pink roses cascading down her back and framing her delicate face. The tiniest doll waited to be painted.

It was a chilly cloudy morning when her turn finally came. The old artist shuffled in to the workroom, with her tiny feet inside fading pink house slippers. The wrinkled hands reached toward to the shelf she sat on, and picked up the tiniest doll in the room. She was held gently as the coats and coats of paint and shellac were applied to her innocent round frame. She was given eyes -- the tiniest dots of black paint -- and a mouth -- a red smudge of paint -- and pronounced finished.

The set of nesting dolls were sold within in the week, to eager Christmas shoppers looking for a multicultural handicraft for their loved ones. The artisan haggled in a thick Russian accent with the buyer of the dolls, succeeding in a high price. The dolls were passed from the Russian artisan’s hands to the smoother, though still wrinkled hands, or an elderly musician. She spent little time with him as she was soon to fulfill her destiny of Christmas present.

She was carefully wrapped by the musician’s winkled hands in gaudy reindeer Christmas paper, and placed gently into a backpack. She was once again enveloped in a silent darkness, sitting and waiting. She belonged to this quiet world. Encased in wooden replicas of her tiny frame, sound did not travel easily to her. Through her countless number of painted exoskeletons she could hear little -- the distant voices of the musician and his student -- and then suddenly an unfamiliar noise invading her safe shell.

It was a sound unlike anything she had heard before -- it was of wooden timbre, but sweet like a quiet laugh. She was taken back to the time she had been a tree, so long ago, but so fresh in her mind. The sound was like the reflection of light on water, so mellow and warm, flowing smoothly over the air. The music emitted from beyond her sight floated lightly into her space, the vibrations of the ethereal sound gently shaking the outer layers of the exoskeletons of her sisters, pulsating into her wooden core. The understanding of what she was hearing was beyond her, but the majestic tone of the music moved her wooden soul to tiny wooden tears, shed in honor of her past as a tall tree, for the gnarled hands of the old Russian woman who so lovingly painted her, for the very sound she felt in that moment. And then it stopped.

The artificial light of the small boxy room suddenly fell on the set of the nesting dolls, their wrapped exterior dull in the fluorescence. The wrinkled hands of the musician reached for the nesting dolls, passing them to a new set of hands, paled by the winter sun, smoothed by youth. The long thin fingers freed the dolls of their reindeer wrapping. The smallest doll saw nothing, heard little more than the murmur of grateful thanks, and the sound of doors opening and closing as the young woman traded the warmth and safety of the building for the wintry air of the outside.

The smallest doll felt nothing, surrounded securely by her larger sister’s innards and held tightly in the smooth young hands of their new owner. She could not feel the snow falling lightly to the paved streets, or see the dark clouded sky of night, or hear the off-key humming of the girl the hands and the dolls belonged to. She felt only the quiet assurance of her many layers, saw only the black nothingness hanging in front of her, and heard only the wooden silence of her being.

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