A New Doll for Christmas
Knox County — A New Doll for Christmas
A story by Sandra Sylvester
A long time ago, maybe longer than even I can remember, there was a little girl who loved dolls. She had a few dolls she played with all day long; playing mother; having tea parties with her tin tea set; lining them all up on her bed and having long conversations with them.
She played with her dolls so much that they were all beginning to look a little raggedy. She had a Raggedy Ann doll, but in her case, all her dolls were raggedy. That didn’t mean she didn’t love them any less. She adored them. She kissed each one good night when she arranged them around her pillow at bedtime. They were all her best friends, her babies.
One day just after Thanksgiving she went grocery shopping with her mother. Friday was grocery shopping day because it was the day her father got paid. After her mother put money away for each of the utility bills—electricity, heating oil, and phone, and Christmas Club money, which she put into their own separate envelope in her envelope file—she put the rest of the cash in her purse and took the little girl with her up to First National to get the week’s groceries. Her father would join them later after he’d cleaned up from his job at the Cement Plant.
The Christmas Club was a special bank account a lot of mothers had in which they put away two or three dollars a week to save for Christmas presents in December. If they could manage to keep the saving habit up all year, they had quite a bit of money to spend on gifts when the time came. No one had credit cards in those days. The closest thing to it was the layaway plan in which people still paid cash before they could take the item home. Cash was king.
On this particular day the store was already festive with Christmas decorations. Special end-of-aisle displays held Christmas decorations; special Christmas-decorated dishes like candy dishes and Christmas mugs, Christmas candles and the like. But one particular display caught the little girl’s eye right away. It was the prettiest doll she had ever seen.
The doll stood there smiling at her with its little delicate painted lips. Her two arms were extended as if reaching out for the little girl. She stood next to a small decorated artificial Christmas tree with little wrapped presents under it.
The doll was dressed in a dress of the most beautiful shade of light blue. It was decorated with lace and silver and white ribbons. On top of that she wore the brightest red velvet coat decorated with artificial white fur. She had on a white furry hat and draped over one arm was a muff that matched the coat which also had white fur for decoration. Her white boots were of the same fur as the coat and muff.
The little girl also saw that the doll had blond hair just like she did. She wondered what it would be like to own such a beautiful doll.
She squeezed her mother’s hand and said, “Look, Mama, isn’t she beautiful?”
Her mother said, “Yes, she is, isn’t she.”
Her mother then fingered the price tag and standing back quickly said, “Well let’s go, Dear. We need to get some groceries for Daddy.”
The little girl did as her mother said but she stole one last look at the beautiful doll as she walked down the first aisle hanging on to the grocery cart.
In the few weeks left before Christmas, the little girl stood in front of the doll every Friday and imagined what it would be like to play with her. She even named her. Rosalie. Almost like her own name, Rosie. The store clerks got to expect her every week and thought she was so cute when she talked to “her” doll, Rosalie.
Rosie dreaded the day after Christmas when she knew the doll would be gone, maybe into the home of some other little girl. She had looked at the price tag too. The cost was over $20 which was a lot of money for her family in 1952. Her father had been out of work for a few weeks before Thanksgiving because of a strike at the plant. The family was just now getting caught up and money for Christmas was going to be tight. Even at her young age, she knew that owning that doll was probably a big impossibility and that even Santa might not be able to bring it to her.
Rosie’s mother noticed how much her little girl adored that doll, but she didn’t think her small Christmas Club money this year would allow her to spend that much money on one gift for just Rosie. There were three other kids in the family after all and she didn’t want anyone to be left out because of one gift.
The mother wished that the store wouldn’t make the doll look so pretty sitting up there in a prominent place where every little girl going by would see it. This community was not a rich one and she imagined there was more than one little girl who would love to have that doll for Christmas and would be disappointed when they didn’t get it.
Well, she thought, there’s always the dime bank.
The dime bank was a glass jar in the shape of a bear she kept sitting on the shelf above her kitchen sink. It used to hold honey at one time. When she had dimes left over from shopping trips, she’d put them in the jar. Many times she had designated that money for a specific item she wanted to buy. Well, maybe this time it could be for the doll.
It was close to Christmas though and she didn’t know if she had enough money in the dime jar to cover the cost of the doll. She decided to wait till the last minute to buy the doll so that the dimes would accumulate as much as possible.
Meanwhile, Rosie continued to talk to her new doll, Rosalie, every time she went to the grocery store with her mother. The store manager even knew about Rosie and her doll after a while. He smiled because he had a little girl about her age and he was thinking of getting her that doll for Christmas.
On the last weekend before Christmas the mother left Rosie at home with her big sister so she could try to make a deal with the manager about the doll. She only had half of the money needed and hoped to be able to give the store the rest in installments after Christmas.
When she went into the store she went to look at the doll one more time before deciding whether to get it or not. She looked in the spot where the display was and the doll was gone.
Oh, no, where is it, she thought. Rosie is going to be so disappointed. Well, I don’t think she really expected to get that expensive doll for Christmas anyway. Maybe it’s for the best.
Suddenly she felt someone at her shoulder and turned around to see the manager. She knew him as he went to the same church as her family did.
“Where’s Rosie today,” he said. “She always likes to look at ‘her’ doll every time you come in.”
“Oh, I left her at home. I wanted to try to get that doll for her but I see it’s gone. Did you sell all of them?”
“Actually we only had a few and we just sold the last one today. However, I do expect some more to come in the day before Christmas. Would you like me to save one for you?”
“Well…I don’t know,” she said. “I really don’t have enough money to buy it. I was hoping to be able to put it on a layaway plan or something and pay you each week after Christmas so she’d have it for Christmas day…but I guess that’s probably a little bit too much to ask…”
“You know what,” he said. “I know things have been tough for you this year. It’s been bad for everyone what with the strike and all. I don’t see why we can’t make some kind of a deal. That’s depending on whether the new shipment gets here in time. Let’s cross our fingers OK. And don’t worry about the money, we’ll figure out something. Check back with me the day before Christmas.”
The mother left the store with her groceries hoping that maybe she could really make her little girl’s dream come true. She didn’t tell her husband about the doll. He would feel awful if he knew how much his little girl wanted that special doll. That doll represented hope for a better year for the family. If she could put that doll under the tree for Christmas, the light shining in her little girl’s eyes would be the best Christmas present any family could have.
Those last few days before Christmas seemed to go by so slow for Rosie. School was closed for the Christmas holiday and the weather became bad. A nor’easter hit the coast and everyone was struggling to make last minute preparations for Christmas. After that storm came another storm, of icy sleet. Things went from bad to worse.
Rosie’s mother was worried that the special shipment with the dolls in it might not make it up the two lane highway to town in those trucks which had to go up and down some very steep hills before they arrived.
On Christmas morning Rosie awoke to sun coming into her bedroom window. The ice on top of the snow outside shone like a blanket of twinkling Christmas lights. It was beautiful…and at last it was Christmas.
She snuck downstairs ahead of everyone else to see what Santa might have left under the tree for her. She expected to have only one or two gifts this year. She hadn’t even asked for anything special because she knew her mother would be sad if she couldn’t get it for her. She’d be happy with what she got she decided. Next year would be better she knew.
She looked under the tree and stared in awe at the big red ribbon draped over her doll, Rosalie. She was really here in her own home. She could reach out and touch her and hold her and rock her to sleep. It had to be the best Christmas she ever had. She didn’t care if there was not another thing under the tree for her. Rosalie had gotten adopted by one very special girl.
“Merry Christmas, Rosalie,” she said. “Merry Christmas and welcome home.”
P.S. This story is a work of fiction no matter how much one little girl might think it’s about her.