22e-Growing-up Italian-American: Of Barbie and Tammy dolls

Tammy doll circa 1963-65.

Uncle Sammy and I are easing into the New Year after a lovely holiday season.   After a week at their time share in Mexico, Uncle Sammy and Aunt Kathie are heading back to Arizona on January 8th, 2016.  I am gradually getting full use of my arms and hands back after a flare-up of tendonitis that started mid-November.  Exercises I learned in physical therapy, vitamin supplements (turmeric, magnesium, cod liver oil), ice packs, quiet time and rest have helped ease the discomfort throughout the holiday season.  I found that since I enjoyed the low-key quality of the celebrations I went to it was possible to put the discomfort out of my mind.  Another way I have coped is to recall happy times in the present and the past…

When I was 7 years old in 1960 Uncle Sammy bought me a Tammy doll.  That 7th birthday was quite an important one.  My paternal Aunt Pat and Uncle Alfred gave me a bubble cut Barbie.  I named her Anna Maria and drove Grandma Josie to distraction with my requests to learn how to sew little felt skirts and vests for Anna Maria.  I imagined her an Italian movie star who lived on the Isle of Capri.  Tammy had more of a back story than Barbie did so her world was more familiar and more everyday.

Tammy lived with her Mom, Dad, brother and little sister in Hollis, Queens.  Since I live in Brooklyn it wasn’t very difficult to imagine Tammy’s life and trips to New York City during Christmas time.  I had both Tammy and Barbie along with their carrying cases, clothes and accessories in 1980 when my parents separated and prepared for a divorce.  Mom came to me for money and I was hard put not to help her.   My Dad was dragging the details of a settlement out.  Mom was unemployed and I was working temp.   I didn’t have much to spare and in a panic I sold the original Tammy and Barbie.  Although I never said anything I was very sad that the physical connection to that part of a happy era in my life was no longer there.

Fast forward to September 2015 when I found a Tammy doll, carrying case, outfits and accessories on sale for a very low price.  I was so excited that I raided my money jar where I stuff every $5 bill I get as change when I’m out shopping.  Tammy arrived and quickly became the mascot of our little home office in Bay Ridge where I work on the postings for this blog.

It’s been said that sometimes a fragrance, a flavor, even an emotion can vividly evoke the past.  For me it’s having an authentic doll–not a repro–from a happy time in my childhood before things got more complicated.  Tammy keeps me company and sits on the combination desk/worktable as I write.  Memories of weekends spent at my maternal Grandparent’s house are all entwined with this doll.  I spent many happy times in the attic where I slept and played with my dolls on Saturday nights.  Many of these memories will become part of our family history as the writing and blogging progresses.

Uncle Sammy and I decided we need a winter break from blogging.  It takes time to come down from the Christmas season and get back into the routine.  Miss Tammy also needs a break after all the work she’s done as our little office assistant…here are some photos of her at work and play…



Tammy has worked very hard all during the month of December as we researched and drafted future postings.


When life starts looking all black and white it’s time to take a break and add a little color back to it.


I think I’ll take a cue from Tammy .  She has decided to indulge in some pampering and time for the things she likes to do like go for walks with her new little dogs Fabia and Julietta.

We’ll be back in February.  Until then be well and stay warm.


Here is a cute posting about the most popular names for pet dogs in Italy




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