You’d think the seasons of holly-jolly sprites and twinkling elves and devilish gremlins would be behind us, but that’s not true for me. I’m afflicted by a shuddering contempt for a certain breed of such beings and my family takes full advantage of it.
I know Annalee figures are very popular, which means they’re quite appealing to a large number of fans. However, I’ve always recoiled from them, going back to when I was a kid. According to the company website, the real Annalee started making characters by hand in the 1950s as a teen, so the original dolls and I are approximately the same age. I don’t remember when I started seeing them in stores; I just know I always felt creeped out when I caught them grinning at me.
It wasn’t the dolls themselves. The poses and the clothes are pretty cute. It’s the faces that undo me. Again, I’m sure the faces are what appeal to many collectors and fans, but they’ve always gotten under my skin (the dolls’ faces, not the fans). It doesn’t matter whether it’s mice, rabbits, reindeer, the Claus couple, or elves, there’s something in those faces. Maybe it’s the eyes (wide open or crinkled shut with merriment), or the rounded cheeks (sometimes dotted with freckles), or the tiny teeth (sometimes buck, sometimes a full, perfect set, sometimes just one protruding), or those little rounded noses. Good grief, they even have manger scene characters where the sheep and Baby Jesus demonstrate those same facial characteristics.
My mistake was in making a show of my revulsion in shopping situations. This amused the Hooligans from the first, and they still take great glee in bringing an Annalee doll to my attention, whether in a gift shop, HomeGoods, or an antique mall. J.Hooligan in particular loves to guide me to some overlooked booth or corner and point out the smiling felt face with the glinting eyes. It would break his heart if I didn’t scream, cover my face, and act as though the sight has done serious damage to some vital organ. It’s publicly humiliating, but that just adds injury to the insult.
I forget exactly when Annalee dolls physically entered my home environment. It may have been back in the late ’90s; I can’t remember if J. was even born yet. I was horrified to unwrap a little Annalee gamin holding a balloon. It was a motivational gift from Diamondqueen, who declared I’d have to display it until I’d lost a sufficient amount of weight. I never lost the weight, and that annoying imp grinned down at me from the top shelf of my computer room bookcase until I moved in with Mom and misplaced the devil-child. (Oh, I know the doll’s around here somewhere, just waiting to spring out of some drawer bottom and send me into apoplexy.)
One Christmas I opened an elf figure, another gift from Diamondqueen, all dressed in white. With his rounded mouth (showing a single tooth), perhaps he’s supposed to be singing a carol. However, he looks mad as anything; I immediately imagined he was shouting at me. When Christmas was over, I tried to put him away with the other decorations, but he wouldn’t let me do it. I wrapped him around the torchiere lamp where he hunched wickedly, daring me to cross him. (I’m looking at him now as I write. When I was moving out of my last apartment, Diamondqueen discovered him. As we were hauling boxes out to the van, I entered the kitchen to find the contorted white elf, his limbs still curled as if wrapped around a lamp pole, posed on the kitchen counter. In his rounded arms was a note: “You bitch! Now my legs are stuck this way!” I laughed so hard I had to put him where I could see him, so now he’s clinging to my desk lamp, apparently shrieking about his frozen limbs.)
I’m sorry to say new Annalee dolls enter my life continually and when I least expect it. One St. Patrick’s Day my sister presented me with a white girl mouse all dressed in green, clutching a nosegay of spring flowers (see photo above). She’s become part of Mom’s living room decorations and stays up through Easter.
During our last visit to Gettysburg in 2009, we visited the Boyd’s Bears store (now closed). I was horrified to see that a large quantity of space had been given over to Annalee dolls. Later, back at our hotel room, I was totally unhinged to walk into the bathroom to draw a nice relaxing bath and spot a fancy elf in green leering at me from the tub faucet. (Yep, that one was especially gratifying to Diamondqueen and the Hooligans, especially when I howled and ran out of the bathroom wrapped only in a towel.)
During the Christmas season of 2012, Mom, Diamondqueen, and I went to lunch and were going to do some goody shopping at the new Jungle Jim’s in Eastgate. At lunch, my sister was fiddling around under the table; I think she pretended to pick up my purse by mistake, then kicked it back across the floor to me. I let it pass and didn’t get into my purse for anything (or if I did, I didn’t notice anything amiss).
However, when I reached into my purse at the Jungle Jim’s checkout, I stared down in astonishment at an Annalee elf sneering up at me from the shadows. I forget now whether I pulled the stinker out and shook it at my sister (who was at a separate checkout) or simply made a commotion, but it caused some curious looks. My sister was delighted. She was disappointed that I hadn’t uncovered her “surprise” at the restaurant.
The most recent incident happened the weekend before Thanksgiving. It was a normal Sunday, with Diamondqueen and the Hooligans here at Mom’s. We’d just finished dinner. When I entered the living room, J.Hooligan peered up from the couch (where he lay wrapped in an afghan) and asked, “Can I borrow your Clearasil?”
“Go ahead, you know where it is,” I said. (Yes, I still have Clearasil around for occasional flare-ups.) He missed only a beat before replying, “Can’t you go get it for me?” I started to rail at him about being so lazy and running me around doing his bidding, but suddenly I decided it wasn’t worth the energy. I strode to my bedroom and into my bathroom–and let out the scream everyone had been hoping to hear. There, in the Lucite holder where I store various toiletries, perched with the tube of Clearsil in his mitten-like grip, was the fanciest elf yet, all stripes and flowing cape with tinsel trim. He looked more smug than evil, an expression on his haughty face as if jeering, “Looking for something, you hapless fool?” And, oh Lord, he had both upper and lower teeth in his twisted mouth!
If you can’t lick ’em, join ’em. I posed this new Elf Leader and his two helpers (who seem to have exactly the same face) on the lamp pole next to my chair in the living room. Hanging there, peering over my shoulder, they reminded me of the bad gremlins in the movie when they invaded the bar where Phoebe Cates was working. They seemed drunk, carefree, and ready to raise hell. Why, you may ask, do I display these creatures? I’m afraid not to. I’m afraid they’ll get me. I fear to end up like the boy in “Poltergeist” (to reference another ’90s horror movie) who’s sure that damn clown is after him, and then it sneaks up behind him in bed. Yeah, I can just imagine that happening. And I don’t even have a dog sleeping with me at night any longer to protect me. (I did pack this elf threesome when I put my Christmas decorations away. Wait, I store my boxes under my bed. What was that weird sound I heard the other night? Oh, no…)