99: The Barbie

99: The Barbie

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas in Canada

The Barbie

Mother love is the fuel that enables a normal human being to do the impossible.

~Marion C. Garretty

Hanukkah came early to our family in 1963. My mother, nine months pregnant with her fourth child declared we would celebrate the festival of lights right now, tonight. She knew that in all likelihood she would be in the hospital when the first day of Hanukkah arrived and she didn’t want us to miss out.

Back then Hanukkah wasn’t a big deal. We all knew the story of how a small group of Jews led by Judah Maccabee had fought the Romans. Even though he was badly outnumbered, Judah and his followers had won the battle and were able to once again practice their religion. They needed enough oil to burn for eight days to make the temple holy again, but they had only enough oil to burn for one day. A miracle happened and the oil burned for eight days. That night, as we lit the first candle, we all thought of the story and of course of the present we would get to celebrate the first night of Hanukkah.

I was seven and the oldest. I couldn’t tell you what my brother and sister got but I can tell you every detail of my gift. It was my first Barbie, and she was beautiful! She had long blonde hair, perfect features and a red bathing suit. Ever so carefully I took her out of the box, knowing I was the luckiest girl in the world. I had a Barbie! Then, as I surveyed my new friend it occurred to me, she had no other clothes! Wasn’t the whole point of having a Barbie doll being able to dress her up?

My mother sensed my growing disappointment. What could she do? She understood, but with all the preparations for the new baby it hadn’t occurred to her that Barbie needed a wardrobe. She promised me she would sew an outfit for Barbie, and it would be ready when I got up in the morning. I went to bed excited and looking forward to playing with my Hanukkah gift.

The next morning I woke early and ran downstairs looking for my mother. The house was quiet. I peeked in my parents’ room, and there was Barbie sitting in the middle of the dresser and wearing the most beautiful dress I had ever seen! The material was a blue print, not unlike the drapes my mother had recently made for the basement windows.

My brother, now awake due to the racket I had been making, came running into my parents’ room as well. He noticed that my dad was sound asleep in bed but my mother was nowhere to be found. We both jumped on the bed and then on Dad.

“Where’s Mom?” we demanded.

“She’s in the hospital,” a groggy Dad shared with us.

We jumped on him again. “Did she have the baby?”

“Yes,” he replied, “soon after we got there.”

“What did she have?”

“A baby girl! Now let me sleep!” he replied.

I found out later that Mom hadn’t quite finished making Barbie’s dress when she went into labour. She knew how disappointed I would be, so she somehow managed to finish the dress before heading to the hospital. Of course the self-centered seven-year-old who spent the day playing with her new Barbie had no idea of the determination and love her mom had shown. It wasn’t until I had children of my own that I thought back to the day of my sister’s birth.

Mom always commented that when you have children you don’t divide your love between them — you multiply it. She had shown me this truth so well that night. Even though all of her energy should have been focused on bringing her new baby daughter into the world, she made sure her three other children did not miss the first night of Hanukkah and were taken care of in every way. And of course she gave us the best Hanukkah present ever, my sister Marla.

~Cindy Armeland Clemens

Lambton Shores, Ontario

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