Raggedy Ann died in a freak microwaving accident. Call me callous, but it was not until I was well into adulthood that I was reminded of this tragic event.
In fact, only as I sorted through old toys for charity, did sight of the Brother Raggedy unleash the ugly, terrifying truth I had blocked out for so many years.
His sister Ann would not be among these bags and boxes.
Raggedy Ann was dead.
Ann and Andy had been a rather mismatched set from the beginning. Ann was a tall girl-- lean, lanky, and towering above her brother.
Together they looked like a stuffed Sonny and Cher. And, following the tradition, it was Ann who got all the attention.
Ann also suffered from female pattern baldness. So my mother would dutifully re-wig her with whatever color yarn she had handy.
By my kindergarten year, Ann looked less like Cher and more like Courtney Love-- a sticky, smeared, and faded strawberry-blond.
Then she succumbed to further indignity, when Grandpa sat on her.
I can admit it now; it was my frantic attempt to save her from smothering (the Aged Relative was not known for his exemplary hygiene) that inadvertently detached her arm, and triggered her true downward spiral.
I waited fearfully, while Mom put Ann in rehab. Under her skillful hands, Ann was stitched-up, washed, coiffed, detoxed and just about ready to begin life anew. I was overjoyed.
But Ann was also still drenched. A day went by... another... and repeated tumbles in the dryer, and even summer sunbathing on the porch, didn't encourage her ultimate recovery. I was five and I was anxious.
And that’s when Mom decided to speed-dry her in the microwave.
I should emphasize that in the mid-70s, microwaves were still rare and mysterious things. Shadowy and mystical... Akin to Sea Monkeys, StarWars and the high-tech visual delights of Atari Pong.
Mom's logic was that if a microwave could cook a baked potato in seven minutes, it could surely dry some cotton hussy with sporadic alopecia. And it might have worked, too. Only, see, microwaves cook from the inside out and Ann’s insides were, we later learned, sawdust.
Black smoke pouring from the appliance signaled the beginning of the end for our Ann.
In seconds, our dining room smelled like a bonfire. Flames shot from Raggedy Ann’s chest, licking the microwave’s inner roof. The smoke detector squawked like a dying goose. Mom shrieked, tossed baking soda on the doll and patted her down like Kurt Russell in Backdraft. Ann was carried out smoldering.
My mother made a final, noble attempt to resuscitate Raggedy Ann. A denim patch went over the spot where the fatal heartburn had taken place. And we went through the motions of redrawing her facial features with magic marker.
But she still reeked of burnt wood and scorched cotton. And her face was just wet enough so that her markered lips bled into a crooked, post-mortem sneer.
It was time to face facts: Raggedy Ann was no more. We put her in a grocery bag and I watched from the window as Mom set her out with the trash.
I never got another Ann. It would have been disrespectful. But when the Adult Me picked up Andy and added him to the donation bag, I had to wonder...
How on earth did I ever explain to him that his sister, who went in for a simple makeover procedure, ended up dead and dumped at the side of the road?
To this day he probably figures it was a mob hit.