Monique before and after

Mad in Pursuit Notebook

Monique the Freak Becomes Unique

December magic: Last week my fun friends brought me a creepy doll. This is the story of her transformation, with a word about enchantment.

27 December 2023. The short, dark days of a northern December need a boost of magic. My friends D and C arrived at our door with their playful pup and gift they knew I'd get a kick out of: a creepy doll.

Subscribe to get my newsletter"This is Monique. She's been all over!"

The tangled mess of hair suggested ratty homelessness. Her chalky complexion spoke of illness and death. She had weird attachments: a fuzzy, curled-up something sewn to her right sleeve, the remains of a red feather glued to her left sleeve, a piece of twine glued to her left hand.

"Gee, thanks."

It was one of those gag gifts. You know, the kind that star in white-elephant gift exchanges. Or appear at your doorstep on Halloween.

D and C knew I had a thing about dolls. But little did they know, I also have a thing about the spirit residing in certain objects that refuse to be discarded. These objects seem to gain life over time. Think of that jar of old buttons you have, maybe passed down from your grandmother.

Think about it. What are the oldest things you own? What are the things you should have tossed when you downsized, but just couldn't? What about the bric-a-brac you took the time to sell? Did it speak to a stranger (buy me!) who now wonders what was I thinking? but can't throw it away?

Pause. Think. Let your imagination take over. Understand that your "stuff" has a life of its own. Allow yourself to feel it, to be enchanted.

Political theorist Jane Bennett says, "To be enchanted is to be struck and shaken by the extraordinary that lives amid the familiar and the everyday."* When we appreciate this, we form more powerful attachments to the marvels in our lives. We are inspired to rise above the dystopian headlines. Generosity and ethics become more important. We veer away from nihilism. Bennett concludes: "You have to love life before you can care about anything."*

Back to Monique.

The next morning I pulled her onto my lap to hear her story.

She is one of a kind. Skillfully carved from wood and padded with some kind of poly foam, she wears a thick hand-stitched quilt. She is clean and fully intact, so she was well-cared for. (D said she was found in a box among an old lady's effects.) She was assembled without moveable joints, arms outstretched, with pegs on her shoes. So, she was designed for display, not cuddling. Her sweet face tilts upward, so she would have been mounted low rather than high—somewhere is a girl's bedroom.

But something about her was unfinished. Her sparkling blue eyes were expertly painted but her lips and cheeks left uncolored. Her mess of hair seemed to be human, but instead of fashioned into a wig, it was superglued directly to her head.

I set to work.

She didn't need much. Tinting her cheeks and lips brought her to life. Washing and cutting her hair removed her spookiness. Adding a stocking cap covered the irredeemable frizz. A new circle collar masked the wonkiness of her neckline.

The clump of fur sewn to her hand turned out to be a very well-made rabbit.

Monique is creepy no more. She’s just wondering about where her next home will be.


*The Enchantment of Modern Life: Attachments, Crossings, and Ethics. By Jane Bennett. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001).


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Books from Mad in Pursuit and Susan Barrett Price: KITTY'S PEOPLE: the Irish Family Saga about the Rise of a Generous Woman (2022)| HEADLONG: Over the Edge in Pakistan and China (2018) | THE SUDDEN SILENCE: A Tale of Suspense and Found Treasure (2015) | TRIBE OF THE BREAKAWAY BEADS: Book of Exits and Fresh Starts (2011) | PASSION AND PERIL ON THE SILK ROAD: A Thriller in Pakistan and China (2008). Available at Amazon.