September 27, 2023

Dolly’s Argument


Visitors to Dolly Madison Peabody’s home are impressed with the plaques and trophies that overspread her walls and shelves and they are wowed by the autographed pictures of notables that are randomly hung throughout. Indeed, pictures, plaques, and trophies seem to jostle each other for space and, as a result, everything appears to meld together as one giant testimonial to the unusual woman who lives among them and keeps them dusted.

Even more striking, however, close attention reveals accomplishment in a staggering variety of fields and testimonials from people from diverse times and backgrounds. A large, bronze plaque, for example, credits Dolly with 1965 Chef of the Year honors, while another recognizes her as the 1973 Outstanding Homemaker and Civic Leader. A third enthuses about her 1990 Leadership in World Disaster Relief Efforts. An entire shelf of trophies attest to Dolly’s accomplishments in sports: first place for swimming; another for rowing; another for golf; others for such things as hurling, fishing, hammer and javelin throw, badminton, tennis, racquetball, squash, volleyball, horseshoes, lawn darts and croquet.

A lady of rather diminutive stature, Dolly is hardly one of whom award-winning performance would be expected. Nor, in light of her retiring nature and rather reclusive habits, would she be freely thought to have hobnobbed with those celebrities whose autographed images smile down from nooks and crannies about the house. Yet, there they are, each lending silent witness to Dolly’s accomplishments and notability.

There are a couple or three things odd about these pictures. They nearly all bear the same affectionate dedication to Dolly, and are all signed by what appears to be the same hand. Indeed, not a few are of people who expired before Dolly was even born.

When someone finds this nonplusing, Dolly laughs delightfully and explains, “These people have helped make my life happy. Oh, I didn’t know any of them, but I think of them as friends, and I believe if they knew, they’d be glad for my friendship!”

Strange as this might seem to a visitor to Doodlebug Island, it is perfectly normal to island residents whose tolerance and devotion to eccentricity has been honed by years of personal and family efforts. The truth is that Dolly’s penchant for collecting awards and pictures might go unnoticed were it not for the fact she has inspired others to do the same. These days, the photograph, trophy, and plaque business is booming on the island with a new store opening nearly every week.

“If we wait for the world to recognize our talents and accomplishments,” laughs Dolly, “we’ll be waiting a long time. I decided to save the world the trouble and myself time by rewarding my own achievements.”

“Then you didn’t actually earn these plaques and trophies?” a visitor might ask.

“Of course I did! I merited every one of them. If society isn’t aware or isn’t clever enough to recognize and reward my talents and contributions, is that any reason for me to hide in the shadows and go without recognition? Why, none of us needs the approval of others if we have our own! For example, I am an excellent speller, and I celebrate that in myself by awarding myself Championship Spelling plaques from time to time. Oh, and it’s the same for my literary awards. How could it be thought that I am any less capable merely because an institution hasn’t made the presentation?”

The depth of agreement among residents of Doodlebug is revealed in the number and kind of awards that are showing up, and for an absolutely bewildering variety of reasons. Vern Zillfinger was recently found sporting first-place ribbons and plaques attesting to his “Rancher of the Year” status, and he owns little more than an acre and one old broken-down pony. And there’s hardly a child or young person on the Island who doesn’t have a fulsome display of trophies presented by doting and hopeful parents.

Readers will want to know how I stand on the issue.

Well, Dolly’s argument is a little over the top, but I’m aware that it has acted to confirm those positive feelings people would like to have of themselves. I don’t think I could participate in good conscience. It’s true that for many years I’ve coveted Publisher of the Year honors for my paper The Doodlebug Run-on. But to award it to myself just wouldn’t be right; not quite in keeping with publishing gravitas.

No, I couldn’t do it. So, after considering the matter, I talked Vern into having one made and presenting it to me!

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