May 18, 2006
Albany--- A popular doll does more than unleash a young person's creativity. It helps a woman cope with the stresses and strains of life back then and now.
History repeats itself often at Joyce Luke's home, where she still plays with her Barbie dolls. "I don't call it playing. I call it re-arranging, making it fresh," says Joyce as she puts a red dress her mother handmade on one of her many Barbie dolls.
Most people only see Barbie's blue eyes and blond hair. "I see fun. I see neat memories. Yeah," says Joyce, as she sits in the center of a room dominated by the popular dolls and accessories.
She became aware of the doll 43 years ago, but to Joyce, it seemed to happen just yesterday. "I discovered Barbie in the first grade. My friends had her," says Joyce.
Soon, she would have her own Barbie, one that she still has. "I wanted the bubble-head blond," says Joyce, remembering when she asked her mother to buy her first Barbie doll when she went to a military PX. Her mother bought just the doll Joyce wanted.
Barbie became more than a doll for Joyce, a role model with unlimited possibilities. "The independence; Women can do it; Conquer the world," says Joyce, about Barbie's appeal that has lasted for decades.
She has Barbie the Presidential candidate; Barbie the NASCAR driver; Barbie the astronaut. And, Barbie the comforter-- who helped Joyce get through tough times as kid.
Many of Joyce's Barbie dolls have traveled all the way around the world with her. "I'm an Army brat," says Joyce, remembering the frequent moves her family made during her father's military career.
She often left human friends behind, but not her Barbie friends. "I had my friends with me before I made new friends," says Joyce. No security blanket, but security dolls, that helped her make new friends quickly wherever she went. "It was really an ice breaker," says Joyce. That became memory makers. She never let her Barbie collection go.
The dolls still live with her. Dolls live in every room in her home like members of her family. Joyce says she doesn't know how many dolls she has. "It's not the amount of Barbie's. It's just what they mean to me," says Joyce whose husband, William, has counted 200 of them.
Joyce realized that some Barbie doll lovers reached a troubling time in their lives. "A lot of people don't know what to do with something as they get older," says Joyce.
Girls become mothers, too old to play with their dolls, but who felt torn between good memories and throwing their Barbie dolls away. "Their childhood stuff doesn't fit in with their adult life," says Joyce.
So, she helps the doll lovers have it both ways-- their memories and dolls. "I've become known as a halfway house for Barbie because I'm holding other people's memories," says Joyce.
They remain safe and secure in her care. Joyce savors her memories, "Soothing. It's peaceful," enough to converted part of her home into a halfway house for dolls that can make time stand still.