Big distance closed by friends' efforts to get all dolled up

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In the early 1980s my husband was offered a job that moved us to Massachusetts. After two boring weeks, I spied an ad for a career open house at Digital Equipment Corp. and off I went, resume in hand.

It was there I met Meg Moreau, who would become a lifelong friend. Hired for the vacancy her promotion had created, I spent the next few years working at DEC's training center in Bedford, Mass. When our first son was born, we moved back home to Pittsburgh with the promise to keep in touch.

Meg and I chatted often by phone, and one weekend I decided to visit her. Her parents invited us to a community dinner. As her Dad was treating, I felt I should make a donation and purchased some Chinese auction tickets.

As fate would have it, my number was called and I became the owner of what would come to be known to the two of us as "The Damn Doll." She wasn't actually a doll, but rather a wooden craft figurine with yarn braids frenetically jutting from her head. A sign attached to her body read: "Housework Makes You Ugly." Everyone commented on how cute she was, as Meg and I chuckled.

Before heading for the airport, I discreetly slipped The Damn Doll under Meg's sofa pillow, knowing full well she would find her shortly after my departure. And when she did, Meg called to "thank" me for leaving her behind.

A few months later, a package arrived from Concord, Mass. I opened it, and there was The Damn Doll sporting a Santa Claus cap, hot glue-gunned to a holiday wreath. Thus began the travels of The Damn Doll.

Over the next 20-plus years the doll has shuffled back and forth between Beantown and the 'Burgh. To celebrate Meg's Irish heritage, I contacted a Concord florist and mailed the doll to his shop. He tucked her into an arrangement of green carnations, and Meg opened the St. Patrick's Day delivery to find her wearing green, with a paper beer mug taped to her "hands."

On a business trip to England, Meg took The Damn Doll along, after which she was forwarded to me with a CD of photographs taken at various London landmarks including the gates of Buckingham Palace. I howled as I pictured Meg posing the doll for pictures while other tourists looked on.

With it back in my possession, I decided the doll should next visit Meg for Thanksgiving. I dressed her as a pilgrim and once again called an obliging Concord business -- this time a bakery. The Damn Doll arrived at Meg's house in a UPS package along with a Bundt cake, the element of surprise again achieved.

To celebrate our 25th anniversary, my husband and I renewed our vows in Aruba. Meg dressed the doll as a bride and FedExed her to our hotel. My husband was in on it this time and checked at the front desk daily, but the package never arrived. He told me the doll was most likely lost.

Devastated at the news, I called Meg. She contacted FedEx to inquire about the lost package, only to find out that it had indeed been delivered. I called the hotel, and the staff realized their error. They reimbursed Meg for her FedEx charges and shipped the doll to me in Pittsburgh. She arrived disheveled but intact, a customs slip indicating the package had been searched.

Meg scheduled a trip with another friend to Disney's Hilton Head resort. I placed a call to the concierge, and she agreed to have me forward the doll. When Meg was out of her room, the doll was placed on the kitchen counter of her unit accompanied by a bouquet of balloons.

Most recently, The Damn Doll returned as a birthday gift, her name glued to her body -- spelled out in tiles from my favorite game, Scrabble.

The Damn Doll has celebrated special occasions and seasonal events with both of us. At times we forget who is in possession of her. The challenge is always to one-up the other person in unexpected ways. The doll is the silent third wheel of an enduring friendship.

And as I write this, she hibernates in my dresser drawer while I contemplate her next adventure.

intelligencer

Robin Prevade of Collier, who works as a recruiter at a nonprofit organization, may be reached at versesbyrobin@yahoo.com.The PG Portfolio welcomes "Local Dispatch" submissions and other reader essays. Send your writing to page2@post-gazette.com; or by mail to Portfolio, Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh PA 15222. Portfolio editor Gary Rotstein may be reached at 412-263-1255.


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