Jo Maeder, Author and Former DJ, Opens Mama Jo’s House of Dolls: Where Every Doll has a Story and a Surprise
Greensboro, NC (PRWEB) September 12, 2012
Nine years ago Jo Maeder, a New York City radio DJ once known as The Rock and Roll Madame, moved to the Greensboro, NC, area to care for "Mama Jo." They had been estranged for over 30 years as her mother’s hoarding and reclusive nature escalated and Jo lived a life right of "Sex and the City." Jo moved Mama Jo out of her uninhabitable house and into a clean one with her. She also took in her huge doll collection spanning four generations.
Numbering over 700, there are all types and sizes from French and German bisque of the 1800s to celebrity dolls ranging from General MacArthur to Shirley Temple to Michael Jackson. (Plus Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Lucille Ball, Princess Diana, Babe Ruth, John Wayne and many more). Life-size dolls and ones only an inch tall are included. Foreign dolls represent cultures across the globe. It was Mama Jo’s wish that the collection stay united.
“I never thought I’d fall so in love with my mother, the South, and the dolls,” Jo Maeder said. “As a kid, I went from dolls to ponies to boys. It’s taken six years since Mama Jo’s passing to be able to own the dolls instead of them own me. I run an adoption service now. For dolls.”
Ms. Maeder learned in therapy that it took her so long to part with the dolls not only because of guilt over breaking them up, but because of intense grief borne of reuniting with a mother who had also become the child she longed for and never had. Also because of “middlesence.” She said, “The first time we go through adolescence, it’s to break away from our parents and become our own person. When we’re drawn back to our parents in mid-life because of their decline, those teenage tentacles reappear and we have to break free again. What made it so hard for me was that those bonds also gave me tremendous joy and comfort. But owning 700 dolls for the rest of my life is not who I am.”
Her transformational caregiving experience was chronicled in the 2009 critically acclaimed memoir When I Married My Mother. The dolls had a starring role in the story. When Maeder was interviewing her mother in the doll room one day, Mama Jo said about her “little people”: “I hope they stay together.” According to Maeder, “ I couldn’t go against her wishes! Plus, I got a kick out of them and the reactions of stunned visitors to the doll room.” She’s now an expert on downsizing. The dolls will “stay together” in four photo albums. She also encourages doll buyers to post photos of their new doll on the Facebook page for Mama Jo’s House of Dolls. “They’re staying together virtually. They can even friend each other.”
What does the tag line “Where every doll has a story and a surprise” mean? Maeder will use her skill as a writer to name the dolls and spin stories about some of them. They’re also part of the larger story of Mama Jo. As for the surprise, “My mother had so much stuff, I’ll throw in something extra in each purchase, like a surprise in a box of Cracker Jacks.”
Her “click and mortar” store can be found in the doll “lane” on RubyLane.com, a site which specializes in vintage collectibles, antiques, art and jewelry.
What is the value of the collection? “Collectibles are only worth what someone will pay for them. We’re in a recession. The Doll Market that was here in Greensboro for many years and the size of a supermarket is now in a small space in a smaller town. My mother bought dolls for whimsical reasons, not as investments. What they’ll add up to over time, I don’t know. The bigger reward is clearing out the space, moving my life in a new direction, and seeing how excited new "moms" get over their doll. I thought this would be thoroughly unpleasant. But connecting with doll lovers and the dolls themselves has brought silly fun into my life I didn’t know was missing! Mama Jo would approve.”
Will there be a sequel to When I Married My Mother? “I’m not sure. When I Married My Mother’s Dolls perhaps?”