A Doll of a Christmas

A Doll of a Christmas

From Chicken Soup for the Grandparent's Soul

A Doll of a Christmas

God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is through another person that he meets our needs.

Spencer W. Kimball

Often, as adults, we tend to remember the Christmas toys we wanted as children, but never received, and to forget the ones we were given. Later in life we sometimes indulge ourselves with collections of these never-acquired toys. Some women collect teddy bears or delicate music boxes to compensate for the ones they didn’t get as little girls, and some men like to collect model cars and train sets to replace the ones they wished for but never found under the Christmas tree.

I suspect that’s why, for as long as I can remember, I’ve collected dolls: big ones, small ones, dolls of all sizes, styles and shapes. And I suppose that’s why I display my collection proudly every Christmas season.

Perhaps the events of one Christmas morning, many, many years ago, inspired my devotion and interest in dolls. It all began the year my family moved in with my immigrant grandparents, in their two-story home on the west side of town.

As a little girl growing up in an immigrant household, I experienced a time when money and jobs were scarce for our family, and the only gifts we could afford on holidays and birthdays were an abundance of family love and my grandma’s wonderful homemade pasta dinners.

Traditionally, my family celebrated Christmas Eve by attending a solemn midnight mass at the nearby church. It was also traditional to hang one of Grandma’s long, black cotton stockings on the mantel every Christmas Eve. Come Christmas morning I would awake to find the stockings filled with fruit and nuts, a generous gift from the “Christmas Angel,” or so Grandma told us. Santa Claus had never paid our house a visit; only the Christmas Angel came bearing fruit and nuts.

Coming from a poor, small town in Italy, where it was a struggle to make ends meet, Grandma and Grandpa frowned on the New World’s tradition of spending hard-earned money on frivolous gifts. For that reason I stayed indoors on Christmas day, with a faked bellyache, rather than face my new neighborhood friends, who all received bright and shiny new toys on Christmas morning.

However, as time went by, Grandma and Grandpa began to mellow to the modern ideas and rituals of their new country and eventually welcomed the new traditions of Christmas gift-giving.

I can vividly recall that Christmas Eve when Grandma and Grandpa set up their very first Christmas tree. It happened in December of 1945. The family had just welcomed the birth of a new baby. It was a time of great joy and family happiness, prompting Grandpa to gallantly announce that, come that Christmas Eve, for the first time in his home, there would be a decorated Christmas tree and beneath that tree a generous gift for each family member.

That year, my grandpa was working as a store clerk in a busy downtown department store. It was there he’d seen me admiring a lovely hand-woven wicker doll carriage in the store window. The doll carriage was a popular seller that season; every little girl in my neighborhood owned one, except me. I longed to own one of these buggies so that I would fit in with my new modern little girlfriends.

Come Christmas Eve, I was the first to open my gift from Grandpa. I tore eagerly away at the plain brown paper wrapping. A moment later, I was gloriously surprised to discover the beautiful doll carriage I’d seen in the store window. Grandpa, knowing how much I wanted to emulate my new friends, had spent all of his Christmas bonus to buy it for me.

I found it impossible to sleep that night; I was filled with anticipation for Christmas morning. This year, I would have a brand-new gift to share with my friends.

At the first sign of daylight, I ran outside into the front yard, clutching my fine new toy in my hands. I strutted and strolled my carriage like a fine peacock as Grandma and Grandpa watched proudly from the kitchen window. I paraded my doll carriage up and down the sidewalk until, at last, a group of my little friends began to gather inquisitively around my new toy. I stood there, anticipating words of praise and envy, but instead my smiles soon turned to tears.

As Grandpa and Grandma looked on from the window, they heard my little girlfriends cruelly poking fun and laughing at my empty doll carriage. It seems my well-meaning Grandpa had “put the cart before the horse” so to speak, or in this case “the carriage before the doll.” He had given me a doll buggy but forgot that I didn’t own a doll!

I stood there, humbled before my peers. Humiliated, I dashed back into the house with my empty carriage. Grandpa, who wanted peace at any price, tried to console me by offering to buy me a new doll for my birthday. I appreciated the kind gesture, but my birthday was a month away, and I needed a solution right away. It was Grandma, in her infinite wisdom, who came up with the idea that solved my problem and made that Christmas a day I’d always remember. As far back as I can remember, my extended family has always been there for me, and that day was no exception.

After a few minutes, I reemerged from the house, but this time I was the envy of all the little girls in my neighborhood. Although I didn’t have a dolly to call my own, I did have a brand-new baby cousin, who fit snugly into my new doll carriage. Grandma had dressed the new baby in her finest clothes and placed her in my doll buggy, allowing me to take the new infant for an unforgettable stroll around the block.

Fifty years later, I remember that Christmas morning as though it were yesterday. I also remember that one of those little girls offered to trade me her doll for my little baby cousin, and Grandma never knew how close I came to making the trade. It was quite a temptation, but I finally said, “Naw, I’ll keep this one. It’s got all movable parts!”

Cookie Curci

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