Miss Otis’s black satin bloomers were drooping, and the lace on her cami was looking worn. Little wonder, since Miss Otis hasn’t changed her costume in over thirty years. Miss Otis is a stuffed cloth doll with bright orange hair and big ta-tas. Named for the woman Ella Fitzgerald immortalized in “Miss Otis Regrets,” she used to ride atop a carousel horse mounted on a brass pole in my dining room. She and I were younger then, and her black satin was lustrous. Then she and I moved to the south of France, where she sat in a bedroom chair and looked out the window. From there we went to Philadelphia. She was not dressed for the cold winters there, so we finally settled in Florida, where she watches me write from the top of a bookcase in my office.
To tell the truth, after the elastic on her bloomers lost its snappiness, that was about the only place she could modestly perch, and she deserved better. When a friend has stayed as loyal as Miss Otis — even if she has cotton stuffing in her head — the least I can do is keep her well dressed. So I bought a bunch of black satin, yards of black lace, and some thin black elastic, and took Miss Otis for a fitting with Aiko, a dressmaker par excellence in Sarasota. Aiko duplicated her original costume, and today Miss Otis is back to her old brassy self. She lolled around in the living room for photos for a few minutes, and then went back to her position on the bookcase. Just having her tarted up like new makes me feel sort of like my old self again too.