Tearie Dearie

Words by Jane Moir

Content warning: descriptions of physical and emotional abuse, and loss
of autonomy


It was in the mid-sixties when a baby doll “Tearie-Dearie” arrived in Australia. The girl wanted this doll more than anything.

The girl was four years old and she didn’t have any dolls yet, but she really wanted one. It was a small doll that came in a pink cot with legs so you could stand it up, or collapse them so it became a cradle. On top was a dome shaped lid that served as a bath. She came with a bottle and after feeding her water she would shed tears and wet her nappy, after which you could bathe her and change her nappy. The girl didn’t have any dolls yet to call her own because up until this point she really had no interest in them. The girl lived in a house with a big garden and she spent much of her time outside lost in her own little world. The house was in a quiet court with only twelve houses. Behind the houses there was a creek, and the girl spent a lot of time there, catching tadpoles, and inventing all sorts of games to amuse herself. There were willow trees that made the most amazing cubby houses, prickly blackberry bushes, and curious foxes, the culmination of which emanated in some sublimely imaginative adventures for the girl. The girl had a sandpit her father had constructed for her along with a slightly dodgy swing that was not much more than a plank of wood, suspended with rope from trees, and a ‘cubby house’ that was more akin to a ‘lean-to’. It had a roof, walls, and a back, but no front. It had a dirt floor, and the girl had furnished it with some old wooden boxes for seats and tables. She took her colouring books and crayons there, along with her tea-party set, and she would mix up a concoction of sugar and water and partake in a tea ceremony with her cat Amos.

Now, the girl knew that there were only two times during the year she could get presents. One was her birthday and the other time was Christmas. It was nearly Christmas and it was a very exciting time. Her mother hung a wreath on the front door with holly, red berries and tinsel. In the kitchen, there was a big gold bell on a hook in the corner, and when you pulled its string, it played ‘jingle-bells’. But best of all was the big tree in the lounge room. It was all white and had red and green baubles all over it and layers of tinsel. On the top there was a big gold star and a beautiful fairy doll. The best part was when night came and suddenly all these coloured lights came on, it was truly enchanting. What was even more special was dressing as an angel for the end of year Kinder Christmas play. Her grandmother had made her a white frock, with wings and a tinsel halo she wore over her cropped hair. The parents were all there to witness this theatrical spectacle, and the girl felt finally she may have done something to please her mother. 

That was really all she wanted, Tearie-Dearie aside, was for her mother to love her. Maybe, it being Christmas and all, this would be a turning point, and finally her mother would love her, or just like her enough to stop hitting her, and telling her awful things she really didn’t understand yet, but remembered much later on. She can still hear the words today: “ I wish I’d aborted you”, “I wish you had died at birth”. The girl had no idea what any of this meant, only that her mother didn’t much like her, and it seemed she couldn’t do anything right.

Finally, the magical night came and the girl, after leaving some carrots out for the reindeers, and a beer and some teddy-bear biscuits for Santa, went to bed, hoping that she would wake up and there she would be, Tearie-Dearie. 

Well, as dawn broke and the light penetrated the not quite closed yellow curtains in the girl’s room, she awoke. A surge of anticipated excitement overtook her, as she nervously looked around her bedroom. On the floor were some boxes that were not there before, and she leapt from the bed to investigate, with only one thing on her mind: Tearie-Dearie. 

Miracle of miracles, atop of the boxes that contained jigsaw puzzles, board games, and coloured pencil sets, lay Tearie-Dearie. Father Christmas had delivered and the girl couldn’t remember a time when she had felt so happy .The girl cuddled the doll that night, along with her gollywog, whom she could not possibly sleep without, so that night, and for many that followed, her bed became a shared space.

Much as she loved the doll however, Tearie-Dearie was the catalyst for a dark, shameful secret the girl harboured for many years to follow. She was only really able to understand it when she grew older, and had undergone years of therapy as a result of her mother’s hatred and emasculation of her, which lasted until that miserable woman’s death. Despite loving the doll there were many days when she took her into her cubby house, and what she did there was truly shocking. The girl would take the doll into the dark recesses of her cubby house and take off all of her clothes. She would then turn the naked doll onto its stomach, on top of her wooden box table, and hit her with sticks. When she was done thrashing Tearie-Dearie, she would be crying, and feel so guilty about what she had just done. She would then bathe the doll, dress her and cuddle her, apologising profusely for hitting her. Then she would go back into the house, as if nothing had happened, but she felt really bad about what she had done, and very ashamed. This pattern was to repeat several times, and only abated when the girl turned five. That Christmas she was given two new dolls from her respective grandparents that she had not yearned for as she had with Tearie-Dearie, but adored them nevertheless. The girl never abused them the way she had done Tearie-Dearie partially because they were ‘girl dolls’, not babies and were bigger, so the girl treated them more like peers and friends. In her five year old mind they were just different to Tearie-Dearie. It took many years for the girl to admit to herself what she had done to that doll that she loved and wanted so much. This is the very first time she has been able to share what she did. She has begun to understand it now, after all, she is older, and has read and studied extensively throughout her life. The behaviour, as far as she understands it, is the culmination of enduring regular thrashings at the hands of her mother and being locked up in her room for hours on end. This abuse emasculated her completely as she was powerless to do anything about it. It was a way for her to cope because she could not possibly defend herself against her adult adversary. It is indeed a strange thing that she still harbours such guilt about hitting Tearie-Dearie, but at least she has come some way to comprehending it. 

So where is the girl now? Well she is no longer a girl, she is in fact quite old . She does still have a way to go in order for her to truly heal, and she is trying her best to do this. Whilst her nemesis might be dead, the ghastly woman left behind a legacy: her son, giving him the power to manage the girl’s life. Being a bully he is relishing the role, however, the girl is taking the legal steps necessary to finally, in her sixth decade, achieve autonomy over her life. Whilst she can’t yet let go of the guilt she still feels over what she did to Tearie-Dearie, she is hoping that by writing this story, she can finally let it go. And, the best thing of all is that she managed to buy herself a vintage Tearie-Dearie on eBay recently, and yes, the doll occupies a prominent position on her bed. That little frightened girl is still there, somewhere deep inside the core that makes her who she is today: Jane. 


Jane Moir

The author Jane Moir

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