It all started innocently enough…the Corolle baby doll I got Petra for her birthday was a dead ringer for the girl who was playing Hermione in my production of The Winter’s Tale. The doll thus acquired the name “Perdita.” Then Christmas rolled around. My mom (Ms. “I always bought you and your brother the same toys, but you were just hardwired as a girl”) got Petra the doll on the top right. She said, “I thought she could be a friend for that black baby. Like ‘Ebony and Ivory.'” We found ourselves calling her “the white baby,” although there were other Caucasian baby dolls in the house, and eventually, that turned into “Bianca.”
Also at Christmas time, Petra picked up those two tiny baby dolls from the toy box at Mom’s house and carried them around all over the place. I think a big part of the attraction was that there were two of them. She’s really into things that match–shoes, socks, identical finger puppets, etc. Mom told her she could bring them home. They became, inevitably, “Viola” and “Sebastian” (Mom interjects, “How do you know that one’s supposed to be a girl, just because it’s wearing pink? That’s really gender-normative of you.”).
Of course, by this point, we were on a roll. It was a thing and we just couldn’t help ourselves. When JC’s grandmother added the biggest doll in that picture to our collection, she had to have a Shakesbaby name. She’s a talking doll–she coos and says “Mama” if you squeeze her just right. I’m thinking “Kate,” as in The Taming of the Shrew, because she really doesn’t shut up.
I remember as a kid, we had a sock monkey that the dog had torn an ear off of. My parents called it “Vincent,” and I was probably in middle school before I got the joke. I kind of get why they did it. You have to have some humor to keep you going (and you have to call the toys something before the kids are big enough to name them themselves).