the doll games
shelley and pamela jackson


interview: babette and bruce jackson

I just think we wanted to exclude both of you. We didn't want either of you around.

Br: That would make sense. And it seemed like a perfectly normal thing, because my brother and I had done the same thing, telling stories that we didn't want the parents to hear.

Did you have dolls?

Br: We did early on, but it was mostly the teddy bear type things. Where I'd have some little guy and Martin would have some bigger guy. But eventually we wound up creating fictional characters that didn't have any physical representations and weaving these complicated stories around imaginary versions of ourselves. Martin became Allan and I became David, doing all sorts of fanciful things. We had lots of science-fictiony plots–sort of boy-type stories. Shallow.

Well, our stories were more like that early on, more like adventure stories. And then they became more about relationships.

Ba: Yeah, well I think your younger stories, and those were the ones that I was more likely to hear, were adventure-type stories. And they were always doing something courageous, something high adventure. And then they changed, but at the point when they were no longer out here in the living room.

Were we still doing the drawing pictures and telling stories out here then?

Ba: Eventually the doll games took the place of that.

I do remember sitting at this table doing Princess stories, too. I don't know how that related in time or theme to the doll games, but I remember doing it here in Berkeley.

Ba: I remember you doing lots of Princess drawings. And in fact I was bothered for a while because I saw your great artistic talents [laughs] being turned into these beautiful ladies and these princesses and they all looked alike so I was sort of horrified by that.

Did you say anything about it?

Ba: I don't know. Maybe that's why you started moving back into the back room. I may not have said anything, but I've never been very good at hiding my reactions. I think I might have said something suggesting that you do some thing else. You know, something subtle.

So we were just doing the drawings then? We weren't doing accompanying stories?

Ba: You weren't telling stories as much, at least as far as I could tell. The ongoing stories were when you were younger, from about two to 6. Shelley started drawing recognizable figures, and then you started drawing them very soon afterwards, like 3 and 1_. And then from the point on there were all these stories.

Do you remember how it worked? How we told the stories? Like how we came up with ideas, and what Shelley would do and what role I played...

Ba: They would emerge. They seemed to just emerge. And I think because they started when you were younger, when you were too young to sustain it by yourself totally, in the beginning she might have started the games, but you were very much part of it. It was flip flopping back and forth between you. I remember it as a collaborative process. It was taking turns.

That's the mysterious and inaccessible part of the whole thing for us: how do you actually collaborate like that, and make a story together?

Ba: that's what's fascinating about watching children, because they really seem to do it naturally. One person talks, and the other talks, and they just–

Br: There's a lot of shifting of story line and pieces, so there isn't a whole, it's not coherent.

Ba: No, it's episodic and tends to be–

Br: Transformational. Because there's no reason to hold onto a consistent character or even a consistent shape.