The Christmas that I was seven years old, my sister, Susan got the most beautiful doll in the world. It was a bride doll with a long satin dress and had a net veil over her golden curls. I wanted to play with it, but Susan said that we had to keep it nice, so it lay in a box at the top of the closet. I just couldn't jump high enough to get it down. When I asked my mother if I could have a bride doll, she said, "Next year, when you are a little older."
The next year brought changes to our family. Instead of having one baby, we had another one-which made six children. Susan was the oldest and I was second. The new baby's name was Deborah Carroll, a long name for such a tiny little girl. We called her Debbie, and I decided that she would be my little doll, so I spent a lot of time taking care of her, feeding her, and just holding her on my lap. I thought she was a wonderful baby. However, I did not forget my mother's promise that I would get a bride doll when I was older. Wasn't I old enough when I was eight?
In the early 50's much of our Christmas wishing was done by looking at the Sears Roebuck Christmas Toy Catalog. I "sort of " believed in Santa, but I knew that the catalog was the source of many gifts. As soon as it arrived in the mail, we spent hours looking at the toys and picking out the ones we wanted the most. I turned immediately to the doll section. There she was-the most beautiful bride doll in the world. I thought that she was even prettier than Susan's was. She had a long satin dress, a ruffled petticoat, and a veil with lace on the edge, and she carried a bouquet of white bell-shaped flowers with little yellow centers. She even had little satin shoes and real white stockings. Her hair was blond with little waves and curls. I thought her mouth was almost shaped like a little heart.
As soon as I found it, I ran to show my mother the picture. "This is it, Mama. It's the bride doll I want. Don't you remember, you said I could have one when I got older?"
Mama said "Mmm-hmm." She was busy changing wiggly baby Debbie's diaper. I helped to hold the baby, then took her to play. I left the catalog behind so that Mama could fully appreciate the doll.
Later I found the catalog and showed my father the doll. He just looked at it. "We'll see," he said. When my Grandmother came to visit, I showed her the picture in the catalog. I thought she might remind my mother about the doll and how much I wanted it. I told her, "Grandma, I think I am big enough for it, don't you?"
"Well, I know that you certainly a good big sister to the little ones," she said. As it got closer and closer to Christmas, I showed the picture of the doll to everyone. I cleared a place on my dresser for her to stand. I even told my little sister Kathy, who was now about three years old, that she could just look at my new doll and not play with it. I saw mysterious packages arrive in the mail. They were wrapped in plain brown paper, so I couldn't really see what was inside, but I was sure my bride doll filled one of them.
Finally, it was Christmas Eve. All six of us were so
excited. The babies were put to bed and my brother Jimmy and I sat and talked
about waiting up for Santa. I wanted to believe that he was coming, but I still
wasn't sure if he was real. Jimmy and I strained our ears and I said, "I
think I hear his bells. I think he is landing on our roof!"
Jimmy stood up as high as he could trying to get his ears close to the ceiling. "I think he is here," he announced.
Our Dad looked into the room. "I think you had better get to sleep," he advised. "Santa doesn't want to find you awake!"
We ran to our beds and finally, after much tossing and turning, went to sleep and woke up early the next morning. It was Christmas. Finally, it was here! I knew I would get my beautiful bride doll.
We walked quietly into the living room. Jimmy and I were first, but the others came in just a few minutes. Colorfully wrapped boxes surrounded the tree. Mama held baby Debbie. Kathy and Jeanne Beth sat on Daddy's knees. Susan, Jimmy and I helped to hand out the gifts.
The gifts were quickly opened with smiles and hugs and laughter. The babies got baby toys. Susan and I each got a pair of roller skates. Jimmy got toy cowboys and horses. Aunt Elizabeth gave each of us a pair of red Christmas socks. Mama got flowery smelling soaps and Daddy got new tools from Mama. Then there were just two big boxes left to open. I knew what one was, I was sure.
Mama handed me the biggest and said with a knowing smile, "I think you'll love this." Susan opened hers first. It was a Toni Doll. She was wearing a plaid dress and had her own hair rollers.
I tore off the Christmas wrapping paper and saw a brown box. I took off the top carefully-I didn't want to wrinkle up her satin dress. Inside was pink tissue paper. There was a smell of new sweet vinyl. I opened the paper and-it was a BABY DOLL, a fat pink baby wearing a flannel diaper. There was a little bottle fastened to her wrist. I picked her up and looked at my mother. "Oh Mama-it's a ---" I started to say.
Her face was beaming. "Oh, Diana, I just knew you would love her. You are such a big help with your little sisters, I knew you would love to have a baby doll of your own. You will be such a good mother some day."
I cradled my new baby doll. I held her and rocked her and felt her little arms around my neck. I walked around holding her, then carefully laid her down on my bed. She was really sweet and her eyes closed like a real baby. When I picked her up again, I heard a faint "Maa-maa." I knew that she was really meant for me.
This all happened many years ago. I have always had a special place in my heart for dolls. I never did receive the bride doll that I saw in the catalog, but now I have a house full of dolls of all kinds. I still have a special place in my heart for babies. When my first son was born, my mother said, "Now you finally have your real doll." I guess she really knew what was in my heart.
E-mail Diana Jenness