The scene on Christmas Day afternoon was straight out of a Norman Bates, er, Rockwell, portrait. There we all were: me, my husband, and our three-year-old, lovingly surrounded by assorted grandmothers, uncles, aunts, and cousins all staring, rapt, at the festively decorated dining table.
And there, in the center of the table,was no pineapple beringed ham or golden turkey but rather a foot-tall baby doll balance, but barely, on a too-small pink plastic potty.
"Why won't she go?" my brother-in-law moaned. He stepped forward and began to squeeze, pinch, and then pound Baby Born on her pink potty.
Aunts who had helped feed the doll, my daughter's only Santa request "because she performs seven bod-diddy fun-shuns," stood back and clucked their tongues. "Maybe she needs some prunes," one finally said, apparently serious.
The brother-in-law continued to pound Baby Born up and down on her potty. Saliva was now dripping from both corner of his mouth and his eyes gleamed like Jack Nicholson's in The Shining.
Baby Born had taken over our holiday and made us all a little crazy. She is made of had plastic, has slightly maniacal blue eyes, and isn't even fun to hold. She was one of the most in-demand toys that Christmas, leading me to realize that our wacky dining table scene was probably being repeated in hundreds of thousands of American households.
Baby came with instructions that you should only feed her the specially formulated cereal (sample packets included) before sitting her on her magic pink potty and waiting for nature, or something like it, to take its course.
There was a warning: "If Baby Born does not go on her potty, push her down and hold her in position until she is finished. Do not let go!"
I could only imagine what horror would ensue if we let go, so, like paramedics doing CPR, one member of the family would hold on to Baby Born until they got tired and another would take over immediately.
As my brother-in-law continued to pound away, my daughter began to cry. "You're hurting her," she wailed.
"Don't----be----ridiculous," he panted through clenched teeth. His voice got all high and squeaky then. "Baby Born likes the trampoline jump, don't you, Baby Born, don't you? Oh, yes um do."
Okay, so he'd lost his mind.
With several aunts taking turns, we decided to try to get Baby Born to at least cry real tears As Seen on TV.
When she couldn't even do that, I felt like crying a few of my own. For damned near fifty bucks, Baby Born should perform a least two of the seven fun-shuns.
"Seven?" my husband mused. "That's more than I got, I'm pretty sure." The aunts laughed at this so he said it a few more times.
The instructions advised that Baby Born would need to be rinsed frequently so she "would not be allowed to grown moldy inside."
Oh, great. Instead of a precious doll for my daughter to cuddle with a at night, I was going to wrap her arms around a fungal, constipated, and vastly overpriced piece of plastic.
The instructions further advised that, in the event of a blockage, you should "shake her vigorously in all directions, set her on the special potty, and repeat the entire procedure several times." Note to self: Postpone life.
We worked on this until late into the evening. Finally, six hours behind schedule, we sat down to a proper Christmas dinner. At my daughter's tearstained request, Baby Born sat in her own chair, smirking I thought, as her place a the table meant the brother-in-law had to balance his plate on a tiny Hollie Hobbie TV tray that one of the aunts found rusting behind the dryer.
I believe that if he could have, he would've taken Baby Born for a long drive into the country that cold December night.
Over the next few months, we tried, in vain, to get Baby Bitch, as I took to calling her, to do anything at all except sit there and look snotty.
She didn't pee or poop, she didn't cry "real ," she didn't squeal "bah!" when you lifted her arm . She didn't do shit.
The directions were very specific about never giving Baby Born anything but water in her useless specially designed bottle. Lemonade, tea, or "even milk" would damage the "intricate interior workings" of the doll.
One day my daughter and her little friend were giving Baby Born some orange juice, although I'd told them she could only have water. She had so much damned water sloshing in her now that she sounded like a coconut when you shook her. Which I had taken to doing lot lately.
"What are you doing?" I shrieked. "You know she's not supposed to have juice. It will make her sticky inside."
"So what? my daughter asked.
"Good point. Carry on."