Is That Mrs. Arnaz?
When I was a kid my mother made doll cakes for little girls’ First Communions.
A doll cake, if you aren’t familiar, is a cake baked in a bowl. Once baked, the bowl is flipped over to remove the cake, and the cake part becomes the skirt to a Barbie doll that is placed in the middle. My mother would then decorate the Barbie and her pastry skirt to be a fetching mini-bride that little girls adored on their special day.
The dolls came with tiny, white high heels that my Mother didn’t need since the cake/skirt covered her from the waist down. Mom gave the shoes to me to play with.
I’d take them down to the basement dryer that was, in my child’s mind, the island of invisible Amazon women that you could not see except for their shoes. Everyone, of course, knows that invisible Amazon women (except for their shoes) are the arch enemy of GI Joe dolls.
Scoff if you must, but there were some intense battles over the washing machine. It’s hard to fight invisible Amazon women especially if they kick off their heels in battle!
This was the story I told the first day of Spanish class here in San Miguel when asked to describe our favorite childhood toys. Years later the teacher still tells me that was the most unexpected answer she’s ever received!
Well, I grew up and forgot all about doll cakes until I had my own daughter and wanted to make doll cakes for her. However, I didn’t possess my mother’s cake decorating skills so I had to use chocolate icing and my doll cakes became ugly witch cakes, a Halloween favorite for many years.
Like with me, my daughter outgrew her interest in doll cakes and I didn’t give them another thought until I was living in Mexico.
You see, also on that first day in Spanish class I noticed my teacher was wearing a long, knee-length, black dress with white polka dots. I said, in my limited Spanish, “That’s a lovely Lucy dress.” Referring to the frocks Lucy Ricardo use to wear on I Love Lucy.
Well, my teacher thought I implied she had taken someone named, Lucy’s, dress.
So the next day I brought in pictures of Lucille Ball in I Love Lucy and images of her dresses that are now in museums. I explained that to Americans, a Lucy dress, implied a 1950’s style dress the show made infamous.
I searched the city for a red-headed doll and found a bakery that was willing to try and make me said cake. Luckily the owner’s brother is my barber and he styled the Barbie’s coif into an exact replica of how Lucy wore her hair to go with the dress.
A fellow student, and Canadian pal, came with me to pick up and then deliver the cake. Upon viewing the masterpiece, the Canadian exclaimed “Who is that?” So I explained I Love Lucy and Lucille Ball.
The Canadian stated “No one will know who that is!”
I retorted that our teacher would, thanks to my first day gaff and toy story. Plus Americans know Lucille Ball as one of the most influential women of the last century and that this type of dress represents her. Much like a pink dress and pillbox hat implies Jackie Kennedy.
He scoffed, saying “Only you think that dress means Lucy to anyone but you.”
So upon leaving the bakery, a foreign man across the street shouts out “Hey, hey…..Is that Mrs. Arnaz?”
I replied “Hey, hey….she’s working here and prefers to be called Miss Ball.”
In a brief ten minute walk we had no fewer than six foreigners stop us to take their picture with the cake version of Lucille Ball/Ricardo/Arnaz.
Reverting mentally back to the maturity level of the boy that waged wars between GI Joe and Barbie doll shoes, I childishly reminded my foolish Canadian pal that I did, in fact, tell him people know what a Lucy dress is!