When I was a little kid, the most beautiful thing I ever saw were those big dolls they sold in grocery stores at Christmas. They were like almost three feet tall and were displayed in boxes with one side having a cellophane window so the dolls were exposed. Oh my goodness the feelings I felt as I gazed up at them on the shelves. There were brunette dolls and blonde dolls. I’m telling you, they were treasures to my eyes. There they stood in their beautiful boxes smiling down at me. Sometimes the boxes were almost as pretty as the dolls. I don’t know how much they cost but I knew that they were way beyond anything Santa could ever deliver to my door. But, but gosh they were beautiful.
Santa did sometimes bring me a doll and I loved whatever he chose for me. It’s probably good that I never walked into the living room on Christmas morning to see one of those big beautiful dolls under the Christmas tree because I would have probably had a little kid heart attack. I never expected such a miracle and it never happened.
My family was never in a financial position to splurge at Christmas time. There were some ugly holidays during those years. One year my mother took a doll I already had, made it a new dress and put it under the Christmas tree to make me think it was a new doll. I wasn’t as dense as she had hoped. I figured out the ruse in about five minutes, but I did like the old doll’s new dress.
There was another Christmas when I was ten and my sister was three that we got several fun things from Santa in December, but they were taken away in January by the repossession people. It was hard for me to understand what was happening but it was harder yet to try to explain these events to my three year old sister.
Then there was the year of the Barbie doll. We were in a store and I saw a Barbie doll for the first time. Oh my goodness! Damned if these dolls weren’t perhaps even more beautiful than the big dolls in the grocery store. These small little dolls with the most amazing detail and unimaginably beautiful clothes. I would have gladly allowed someone to cut off my right arm if it meant that I might possess one of these dolls.
When I discovered Barbie my mother told me I was too big to be playing with dolls. Of course I was. Hell I was eleven years old. But my mother didn’t appear to understand this doll was not to play with, this doll was to admire. This was a goddess doll that must be kept in her beauty and perfect condition.
That Christmas we were beyond Santa so we opened our presents on Christmas Eve. We were living in a not so attractive house at the time and things were near their all time pitiful. My sister and I sat there on the floor and tore into our meager little pile of gifts. We took turns opening our presents. I opened one of mine and about fainted. There among the ripped up wrapping paper was a Barbie doll. Not only a Barbie doll, but an outfit for her too. It took my breath away. I was the owner of this beautiful doll. I went bananas with gratitude. I jumped up and hugged the hell out my mother and I turned around to do the same to my dad but he had had too much to drink, again, and had passed out in his chair.
It almost didn’t matter that he was drunk again. It almost didn’t matter that at the time we lived in a trailer connected to a concrete block structure that served as a living room, bedroom and bath. It almost didn’t matter that daddy’s drunkenness that night would continue for a couple of weeks. It almost didn’t matter if we were, as my grandmother used to say, “poor as a church mouse”. I was the proud owner of a Barbie doll and her outfit.
I still have that Barbie doll and I still have the outfit and all the accessories. I still have the box she came in, and she’s in perfect shape. Not a hair is mussed on her head. Each Christmas I carefully take her from the box and dress her in that gorgeous pink outfit. I place her, along with my grandmother’s old doll, in a position of honor. And every Christmas it almost doesn’t matter that I never had one of those big beautiful dolls in the box, the big dolls that smiled down to me from the shelves at the grocery store.
I have left my days of yearning for dolls behind me now. I’m now a “big girl” and much too old to be playing with dolls. I don’t want or need them anymore. But you know what? They have those big dolls in the box at the grocery store this year and when I see them, just for a tiny moment, I shrink down to that little girl who used to look up at them with such awe. That’s when the little girl tears well up in my adult eyes. But, you know what? It almost doesn’t matter.