The title, Double Doll: Turning Myself Upside Down, comes from a pivotal experience in my life. I was only eight-years-old when I received a rag doll with a Navajo face and body on one end, an Anglo body on the other. The doll became a symbol for my journey into the world of the Navajo and the manifestation of a childhood prayer: Please God, turn me upside down and make me an Indian.
My story is divided into three parts. The first two chronicle the early years that led to a life-changing event and the formation of a new business with a mission to promote American arts through the sale of Amish quilts and Navajo weavings. The last section tells of a learning time for me: lifelong customs and habits had to be replaced with the mores of a new culture. I share with you the experiences that tested and, in some cases, shattered the core belief systems that had been my foundation for more than fifty years. Through intimate relationships built among the Navajo, I was forced to examine my own world order only to find those guiding principles were flawed.
My journey started on the Navajo Reservation at the age of eight. Along the way my life was turned upside-down multiple times.
She Faces Her Enemy: The Journey Continues, the second book in the trilogy follows the Durango Trading Company and two Navajo women as they travel to Germany for the Domotex International Trade Fair. The business story intertwines among my personal involvement with Crystal Redshirt, the woman who through a Navajo adoption ceremony became my niece. I not only had to face my own enemies, but was called upon to become an advocate for her.
The 3rd book in the trilogy, Lives Turned Upside Down: The Journey Comes Full Circle tells of my path as I followed a Navajo Medicine Man’s prophecy to: “Be the eyes and ears to keep us in touch with the rest of the world.” My turned-upside down life once again took a new direction.
In all three of these books many names have been changed to protect the identity of the characters. I invite you to come along on what has been, and continues to be, an extraordinary journey.
Second and Third books will be published very soon!
Eighteen minutes after ten, the vice-president of the New York Stock Exchange stormed through the door. He was my age, perhaps a few years older, and, unlike the rest of his team, his jacket was off, his tie loosened, his shirt collar unbuttoned. He was a large man, balding and with a paunch that made it impossible for him to button the vest of his three-piece suit. No words were spoken as he crossed the room and sat at the head of the table. Eyes looked up; pencils were poised. Everyone was ready for his pronouncements.
He scanned the faces around the table, glanced at the Grandfather clock, and rested his eyes on me. “Okay, Lil’ Lady … I am a very busy person. You have ten minutes.”
I leaned down, lifted my leather Gucci case to the table and placed the remaining proposals inside. Twenty pair of eyes watched while I gathered my belongings and stared directly into the face of the vice-president. “I’m through playing your game,” I said and paused to watch the reaction. His expression was one of total consternation—his eyes narrowed into slits, his brow furrowed, his mouth twisted as though ready to speak, and he rose halfway out of his chair. “What the hell,” someone muttered. I turned and calmly walked out the door.
The following day we were expected at the home of Rebecca and Amos Stoltzfus. Sonya was quiet on the drive into the heart of Lancaster County Amish country, and all three women were hushed as we made our way up the lane to a sprawling three-story farmhouse. “It so green,” Grace said as we got out of the car. “An’ huge.” Her eyes were wide like a child’s in a toy store. “Looks like hotel in Albuquerque.”
“The Amish are like the Navajos,” I said, “only with their sons. When a boy marries he brings his wife to his parent’s house. They just add a few more rooms.”
“Coool.” Sonya pointed her chin at a buggy that stood next to the barn, “It’s like ones we passed on the road.” The Amish farm was like a picture with fences freshly painted white, manicured lawns and sparkling windows in the house and barn.
“How comes …” Sonya stopped mid-sentence. Rebecca was coming down the porch steps leading a small army of children. I counted nine—ranging in age from about three to sixteen. They were look-alikes in their dress and appearance. The youngest peeked from behind Rebecca’s skirt.
“Welcome. Welcome.” Her voice was high and shrill. “We’re excited about you coming.” Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed her husband, Amos. He and two older boys stood watching from the entrance to the barn. “I let the children go late to school so they could meet you awhile.” She put a hand on the shoulder of the oldest, “John, Jacob, Sarah, Matthew, Ruth, Esther, Joshua, Mary …” After their name was mentioned, she gave each a little push to send them on their way, “and Rachael.” Rebecca had to pull the child from behind her skirt.
Rachael tugged at her mother’s arm, coaxing her down so she could whisper something in her ear. Rebecca gave a hearty laugh and said, “Rachael wants to know if you’re going to scalp her.” Sonya stooped to the child’s level, handed her a piece of hard candy from her pocket and said, “Not if you gives me a ride in your buggy.”
Crystal pulled aside a blanket, a temporary door that hung from the inside of the doorframe, and nodded for me to enter. I stepped over the threshold, onto a floor of hard-packed dirt, and into a darkened enclosure. The only daylight came from two small windows and the hole in the cupola in the roof. I’d been inside the hogan before, but today everything looked different. A fire burned hot in an oil-drum stove with a square section cut from its side for inserting logs. It sat in the center of the room; a pipe protruded from the top of the drum and extended up to a hole in the roof. The heat was oppressive, and the smoke-filled room carried a faint odor of bodies mingled with the sweet pungency of cedar and sage.
When my eyes adjusted to the dim light, shapes began to form. I saw dozens of mattresses lining the side walls of the circular enclosure, and, to my right, I saw a makeshift curtained area. I later learned it was the dressing room and bathroom accommodations for Grace. Along the west wall, directly opposite the door we’d entered, was an upholstered couch mounded with blankets.
Crystal guided me in a clockwise direction while admonishing that one must always move the path of the sun when coming into or going out of a hogan. She led me to a woman who sat cross-legged on a mattress next to the couch. They exchanged Navajo words.
“This is our hataalii,” Crystal said. Unlike other introductions to Navajo people, there was no handshake or formal greeting. The medicine woman merely gave a nod and uttered the word hágoshíí.
“She says okay you’re here.”
Crystal took the Pendleton box from me and laid it on the blanket alongside a Navajo ceremonial basket and a deer hide. “All part of payment for ceremony,” she explained, and motioned for me to follow her to sit on the mattress on the other side of the couch from the hataalii. It was then I saw Grace under the mound of blankets. “She sleeps,” Crystal said, “makes ready.”
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