Heart

When I was quite small, about two years old, Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy and their stories by Johnny Gruelle were among my favorites. My mom made me both of the dolls, and I was extremely happy with them until I found out — shock, horror — that Raggedy Ann had no heart!

In the stories, you must know, she had a candy heart. Back then (almost 80 years ago now) there were small sugary heart-shaped candies called “conversation hearts” that had messages like “I love you” or “Be mine” or similar sayings. Courting couples, among others, had a lot of fun with them. Raggedy Ann was supposed to have such a heart sewn inside her. It was what made her so good and loving — and different from her brother, who was much more mischievious and didn’t have such a heart himself. The heart was mentioned often in the stories.

So, of course, I felt her body expecting to find the small heart inside of her. Not being able to find it, I asked my mom to show me. “It would be too messy,” mom said. “It would melt when we have to wash her and she’d get all sticky.”

I knew that this was wrong thinking. She had to have a heart. I asked my Gran’pa for one of the candy hearts — he was that kind of a grandfather. He got me the candies, helpfully showing me which ones said “I love you” and read to me what the others said. I kept one of the I-love-yous and ate the rest, which made Gran’pa happy too.

At the first chance I had to get hold of the scissors, I poked a hole in her chest and pushed the little candy heart as deeply into her stuffing as I could. (I knew I wasn’t supposed to play with the scissors, but I wasn’t playing — I was working!) Unfortunately, after that Raggedy Ann started leaking stuffing. I kept tucking it back in, but I knew this was trouble. She had to be fixed. When I got a hole, I leaked too, and someone always put iodine and a bandage on me. (Living on a farm, there are a lot of opportunites for getting holes in yourself, even when you are little and there are five adults trying to keep track of you.)

I took Raggedy Ann to my mother, showed her the problem, and requested a bandage. She explained that she’d have to sew up the hole, and asked if I knew how it happened. I told her about the scissors and the candy heart. She already knew that even at two I had my own views about things and that I could be surprisingly stubborn. She explained again about the candy getting wet and messy and making Raggedy Ann sticky. She was poking around with her fingers, trying to get the heart back out.

I still remember taking the doll out of her hands and clutching her tightly to me, explaining that Raggedy Ann wanted to love people and she needed her heart to do it. She had to have her heart or she’d always be unhappy. When I remember of one of these ancient experiences, sometimes I’m surprised at how little I’ve changed. I suspect that all of us are born knowing a lot of wise stuff and it’s important that we get to have opportunites when we are young to affirm and reinforce it.

This is one of the rare things I remember from when we lived on the farm, but for some reason, I dreamed about it today and woke up sad and teary and angry with the world. I don’t remember if I had tears in my eyes way back then, but I had them this morning, and I have them again now. And I think of the children at the border being taken from the people who love them and having their hearts broken. I think of all of the children who get harmed in this society we humans have made.

I also think of something I realized in my years of practicing spiritual healing — right at their very core everyone needs and wants to love and be loving. It’s what we really are, no matter how hidden that core may be by experiences and hurts and betrayals. It’s always there. This is something mystics and some healers absolutely know, even more certainly than we know the sun will rise tomorrow. I suspect that ultimately, it’s the only part of us that is eternal.