the doll games
shelley and pamela jackson


interview: babette and bruce jackson

Ba: I remember as a child there was a game I used to play with my Cheerios. I would have bowl of cereal and I would push all the Cheerios to one side and there would be milk on the other side and then– there were these Cheerio individuals, and there was some sort of very complex game I played with them. And then I didn't play it for a while, and I suddenly remembered it a year or so later and wanted to play it, and I had absolutely no idea what this game was anymore. I think that's what the process is like– it's almost pre-conscious.

Br: Was it lost because you now had too strongly a developed sense of coherence or logic?

Ba: I just had no idea what I had done.

That happened to me once. I had played this incredible game in the back yard with bubbles, where the bubbles were actually people, and they had whole little dramas as they floated through the air before they popped — meetings and romance and adventure– and it was so fun and to satisfying that I wanted to do it again another time, and I couldn't remember how it worked. I couldn't imagine how it could have worked!

Ba:That's what happened to me with my Cheerios.

The lost game!

Br: The lost chord.

And then with our doll games there came a period–I don't think we forgot what to do but we didn't know how to do it anymore. The games got more and more self-conscious before that and we were suddenly very aware of the fact that the heads of our dolls would come off and the arms and legs would come off and the dolls would start saying things like "Just a minute I have to go get my head," and they became really funny and self-conscious. But that was really like the beginning of the end, because after that we just couldn't sustain the illusion at all anymore and we couldn't play the game. But yeah, how the collaboration actually worked is very murky to me. And what I thought about the games, whether I identified with them the same way Shelley did. Because I don't remember any of it as well as she does. It's quite mysterious to me what I was thinking, even later on, towards the end of the games.

Ba: You mean what role you were playing?

Yeah. Because definitely she was more directing them. And for example when they started to be about sex that was her idea, I wasn't there yet myself, it wouldn't have occurred to me to play games about sex. But it was fine with me, I learned how to do it and surely at some point–I mean you can tell from the artifacts, like the poems that Harvey wrote to Mara that are penned by my hand, you can tell that I was into it–"Ah Mara, your breasts–"I did these hilarious things. But I don't remember what I really thought about it all, and I wonder if I was always just being educated to the next step ahead of where I naturally was in my development by Shelley, and how much I was into it myself, and participating and creating things– I just don't remember.

Ba: Well if you look back at when you were younger, because that's what I was much more conscious of what was going on, you were definitely being pulled forward by Shelley– by your relationship with Shelley– but you were also very definitely contributing your own uniqueness to whenever it was you were doing, and you were doing things that she hadn't done when she was your age. You were always acting almost– you were trying to be as old as she was, and you were able to give to whatever activity it was some of your own personality. And I suspect that's what happened when you got older, too. She would define the terms of the game, you'd figure out the game– and you've always been good at that, you figure out what the game is that the other person is engaged in and then you engage in it. It's probably characteristic of the second child anyway, that the other one will define the world and if you want to be part of things you have to be really good at figuring out what it is.