Monday, May 18, 2015

Italian Babinos or Baby Dolls

       I am a little Italian babino, born in a land that is shaped exactly like a top-boot, and my earliest recollection of life is standing in a shop window for people to come and look at me. But I did not have to wait long. One day, a lady (whom I have never seen since) came in and bought me and had me wrapped up in paper. Then she went out into the street and found a ciocciari to carry me to the place to which she had had me addressed. These ciocciari are young girls who do somewhat the same work as English messenger boys, carrying parcels, etc., for hire. You can always tell them by their shoes, which, indeed, are their badge of office. These shoes are strange in shape and made from the hairy skin of some animal.
       I was not long before I reached my new home, and was quickly unwrapped by a little girl, with almost black hair, large eyes, and the deep olive skin that most of us have. And how she did exclaim when she saw me lying there, waiting for her to dress me, for up till then I had no clothes to wear. She quickly gave me a name, Filomena, and, by listening, I found that her own name was Maria. Her parents were very rich indeed, and she soon made me plenty of clothes so that I could appear in public, and I always went everywhere with her.
       Our land is a land of flowers and fruit and sunshine and cloudless skies, and we spend almost all
our lives in the open air. I have been with Maria all over our wonderful land, and seen almost all of its many great beauties. We have been to the mountain villages, where the goats are driven into the streets in the early morning, and the people bring out their jugs, and the animals are milked as the milk is wanted. I have been among the vineyards in autumn, when the rich purple grapes were ripe, and were being picked into large baskets and tipped into tall wooden tubs called " ligoncie."
       I have seen the olives picked and placed in the mills, where they are crushed to pulp by a big stone wheel. After these are crushed, they are put into a press, and the oil trickles into large vats beneath.
       I have been to Venice,  that wonderland, where all the roads are waterways, and, instead of riding in carriages, everyone goes about in gondolas. There are no less than 150 of these water streets, and the houses are built on piles and rise directly from the water. In front of the houses are gaily painted posts, to which the gondolas can anchor for the people to get in and out. These gondolas are long flat-bottomed boats, and are always painted black. Hundreds of these are always passing along the water streets, for all the tradesmen deliver their goods by gondolas, just the same as the people have to go to church or the theater in them. The first time I ever went in one of these gondolas, Maria whispered in my ear: " Now, Filomena, watch our gondolier." And so, you may be sure, I did. He stood up, and instead of using the oar in the usual way, he pushed out into the water instead of pulling.
       All the strokes are made on one side only, and the oar is hardly ever lifted out of the water. The Grand Canal is a marvelous sight, both by night and day, for it is two miles long and always crowded with gondolas; while the view from the Piazza, with the great dome of St. Mark's, is the finest in Europe. Beside myself, Maria has another doll whose name is Isabelle, and who was given her by an aunt. She is very charming indeed, and comes from one of the coast villages where she used to be a fisher-girl. She wears a pair of earrings, and a white blouse that is just gathered in at the neck to a narrow band. The sleeves come right down to the wrist and are very full, ending in a frill. Over this she wears a corselet of black velvet, drawn together with scarlet laces, while her skirt has a couple of scarlet bands at the bottom. The lovely embroidery on her apron is gold and blue and green and pink and orange. Her stockings are white, while her boots are of untanned leather. On her head she wears a gaily colored square scarf which is crimson and green and orange.
       We are three very happy people, and I love Isabelle almost as much as I do Maria, for we always go everywhere together, and share all the pleasures that we can.

Dolls that are ill or broken can be treated at a miniature
medical institute in Naples. For over a hundred years
 the Italians get their little companions fixed at the doll hospital.

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