Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Back To Paris: Barbie At the Louvre

I was somewhat shocked to see a bigger-than-standard size flag image of Barbie hanging from the Louvre museum in Paris. Actually, it wasn't right in the center of the old grand palace--more at the end. And yes, I wrote "Barbie," the American toy icon of the 1960s to the present. Exactly. What is Barbie doing at the Louvre? Had she become status worthy of a Louvre museum exhibit?

I dismissed the exhibit because it felt trivial, and I didn't see any mention of her exhibit while in the Louvre. But, Barbie and I go way back. And Ken, Skipper, Alan, and Midge. Barbie cars, houses, and the most glamorous wardrobe that would rival a Vogue magazine fall fashion issue.

It's what I looked most forward to at the annual church bazaar where Mom helped the ladies prepare for months and months. I would save my money and spend my money on two things: a rice krispy peanut butter bar and a homemade Barbie outfit. On the one occasion I clearly remember, it was a brown knitted pullover and skirt with a creme colored yarn flower embellished on the front. The hours my sisters and I spent dressing our Barbie dolls might equal half of my childhood playtime.

My father had a wealthy accountant who had one daughter and a mind boggling collection of Barbies, When she outgrew playing Barbies, my father traded two Swiss watches (he'd picked up on a recent trip), for all of Cricket's Barbie collection. For years, we were in Barbie heaven.

The day came when my sister and I outgrew our Barbies too. For five dollars, we sold our Barbie collections to two sisters in the neighborhood, who were just a younger version of ourselves. It felt good to see the same pleasure I'd once felt, but sometimes I wish I still had that Barbie collection.

Sometimes I wish Dad was still here.

When Elton John played Vegas back in the late 1970s, tickets were sold out before my sister or I could act. Dad came home with two main floor tickets.

Just like he came up with the dinner money for my ninth grade friends and me before our first dance.

When I wrote that he traded those watches, heretofore just a part of the story, I realized he was quite the father, and I imagined the humorous scenario of Dad and his accountant, both in their late thirties or forties, one an astute accountant, the other a successful businessman, negotiating for Barbie dolls.

"Hey Reid, my wife mentioned your daughters enjoyed Cricket's Barbie collection when you came to swim."

Did Dad have to pause to wonder what Barbies were? Of course not, he'd seen them spread out all over the living room, or he'd watched us unwrap Barbies for Christmas. Maybe Mom complained about the shoes left in corners and maybe she told him how she just vacuumed them up too.

"Sure Ken, I remember."

"Well little Cricket isn't so young anymore and she's outgrown her Barbies. We thought your daughters might enjoy them. It's quite a collection."

"I'm sure they'd love them. What would I owe you?"

"Ah, I don't know what they're worth. Give me whatever you think..."

"Well, I just got home from Switzerland and I bought some extra watches."

"Gee, that would be swell...."

As the days passed, my curiosity grew over the Barbie flag. I'd almost gotten over my French art snobbishness and wanted to know where the exhibit was. Tony agreed to see it. I looked again, but it was no where in the Louvre. So I went into action; I made Tony ask the information desk because I was too embarrassed to ask where the "Barbie" exhibit  was in a world renowned museum of fine art and antiquities.

Barbie, I let you down.

The Barbie exhibit was in a separate part of the Grand Palace and was not part of the Louvre. We never saw it, and in this moment, I wish I could turn back time~~ to Barbies, to Dad.