I was dragging my feet along the tiled floor of the grocery store aisles, my mind probably at home in my room with my toys and books. Or maybe I was thinking about what would be on the table for dinner that night. Perhaps it would be my favourite, chicken and dumplings. Of course my child’s mind didn’t think about how that would happen when it was already getting dark outside, and Mom the cook was still in the grocery store.
My daddy was holding my hand while mother was consulting her list and piling items from the shelves into the metal shopping cart, when my eyes darted upward to a crowded shelf that held not peas and corn, nor bread and cereal. Instead the shelf was full of toys! There were big red trucks and shiny toy drums, building blocks and dolls. Dolls! That’s when I saw her. My eyes grew big as saucers; my feet stuck to the floor. There she stood, taller than all of the others, that princess doll. Her shoulder-length hair was a dark blond and set in a Paige-boy style. The sparkling “silver” tiara on her head completed the royal look presented by the dark blue satin gown, trimmed with white lace. Her blue eyes shone from her perfect rosy face. All I could do was stare. I could imagine her sitting elegantly on my bed.
Although Mom and Dad looked toward where I was pointing, they didn’t seem to share my excitement and my pleas to buy her went unheeded. It was just a few weeks before Christmas and Mom’s thoughts were on getting the Christmas baking ingredients and the week’s meal supplies. They may have told me too that they couldn’t afford to buy her then. Or possibly they’d suggested I put her on my list to Santa. I’m sure I dreamed about her that night, but she wasn’t mentioned again.
The weeks passed and soon it was Christmas morning. I wasn’t allowed to go downstairs until the rest of my family was up. Since my three siblings were teenagers who’d much rather linger in their beds, I had to be content with dumping out the contents of my stocking that hung on my bedroom door knob. When I was finally allowed to creep down the steep stairs to the living room, my eyes lit up in disbelief. There in front of the Christmas tree stood my princess! That was all I needed. I ran to examine her. She was even more beautiful up close than she’d been up on that shelf. I looked at the little pearl earrings on her earlobes, and the triple strand pearl choker necklace around her neck. Her nicely shaped feet fit perfectly into the silver plastic, high-heeled slippers. That was the best Christmas ever!
I didn’t play much with that doll. I was almost getting to an age that I was more interested in playing games and reading books and playing outdoors than playing with dolls. But I loved to look at her where she sat on my bed. She held that spot as I grew up, married and had daughters of my own. My father-in-law, an antique dealer, once offered me $100 for her, but I turned him down. A number of years later, when her dress had faded to a dull purple and the elastic of her necklace and slippers had rotted and broken, like my marriage, and I needed the cash, I made her a new dress and regretfully sold her on eBay for far less.
I wonder now what that doll represented. Why did I want her so badly? And why, when my daughters were given a number of very pretty and costumed dolls as Christmas gifts from an uncle, did I have a shelf built for them to be displayed, rather played with? Interesting questions.
Do you have a similar story, a childhood memory about a special gift? I’d love to hear about it.