To Raise a Doll


From The Believer:

On a Sunday morning in May 2018, I accompanied Vivia Wampler to a mall in Chico, California, where she often went to eavesdrop on other families. She held a Coke in one hand and a Subway sandwich in the other, her eyes scanning the food court. She was hoping to see a temper tantrum, so she could learn how a parent reacts. But today was unusually slow.

Vivia let out a sigh. “I don’t know why, but tomatoes are so good,” she said.

In the stroller next to her sat Emma. Vivia picked her up and gently rubbed her back. She’d always known she wanted to be a mother, and handling Emma came naturally to her. She inserted a bottle between her lips, tipped it back a few times, and returned to her sandwich.

A woman’s voice called out from behind the smoothie counter.

“I’m sorry: is that baby real or not real?” she said. “Oh my god! Not real.”

“I’m just practicing,” said Vivia, hugging Emma to her chest.

“A Natural Mother”, Bianca Giaever, The Believer

Photograph by Sarah Wulfeck via Flickr (cc).