This is a Christmas memory story I submitted to Chicken Soup for one of their Christmas books. The story didn't make it and it has not been published until today. Most children remember a Christmas when they had a very special wish. Some were granted. Some were not. This is mine.
A Wish, An Angel, and A Big Baby Doll
By Nancy Julien Kopp
My bottom lip quivered when my mother laughed and said, “You’re too old for baby dolls.”
I didn’t think twelve was too old to play with dolls. My cousin, Carole, had the most wonderful baby doll, one the size of an actual infant. She wore real baby clothes. I coveted that doll more than anything I’d seen in my entire life. The one time of the year we got new toys was Christmas, so this was the perfect time to ask for one--Christmas of 1951.
I took a deep breath. “Carole has one, so why shouldn’t I?”
This time my mother didn’t laugh at me. She stopped rolling the pie crust dough. “Girls who are twelve and in sixth grade don’t play with dolls. Carole’s only eleven and in the fifth grade.” She started rolling the dough again.
Why did a year make such a difference? I only had one doll, a Shirley Temple look-alike given to me six years earlier. At twelve, I had perfected sulking, and so I proceeded to do so. I watched while my two younger brothers turned the pages in the Sears catalog writing their initials next to the toys they wanted. The catalog filled quickly with the letters H and P. It probably wasn’t worth putting any N’s there. I only wanted one thing, and it looked like I wasn’t going to get it.
Even so, I harbored a twinge of hope all through the weeks that led up to the big day. We lived in a small apartment with little storage space, so my mother wrapped the gifts she purchased immediately and stacked them on the dressers in the bedroom where she and Dad slept. She delighted in sending us in there on made-up errands so we could watch the piles grow. I didn’t see a box that might hold a life-size baby doll. Maybe tomorrow…
Signs of Christmas were all around us. My brothers and I listened to an episode of the The Cinnamon Bear on the radio every day after school. The same story about two children and a stuffed bear searching for a special star ran every year in December, and despite knowing the ending, I listened daily after school while I snacked on the latest Christmas cookies that appeared each day, washing them down with cold milk. But I thought about the big baby doll.
Mom baked many kinds of cookies, storing them in gaily patterned tins. I helped frost the sugar cookies and sampled the others that came out of the oven as soon as they cooled. Tiny rolled-up rugelach, powdered-sugar-coated crescents, and of course, chocolate chip. Cinnamon rolls, coffee cakes, and frosted layer cakes made our holiday special. We had fudge every Christmas—so soft and gooey, it had to be eaten with a spoon. While the spicy smells of the holiday filled the air, I thought about the doll.
A few days before Christmas, Dad put up the tree and strung the colored lights. Next, we three kids hung the ornaments. Being oldest, I was in charge of the upper branches. Howard worked on the next tier, and Paul, who was only four, put ornaments on the bottom branches. We finished with silver tinsel that shimmered in the Christmas tree lights. Christmas music played on our big console radio in the living room. If I got my doll Christmas morning, it would be a perfect holiday.
A special angel adorned every tree of my growing-up years. Mom pressed the angel’s pink satin dress, smoothed out her gold wings, and fluffed up her hair so she was ready to stand on top of our tree, watching over us. Dad waited until we decorated the entire tree, then he put the angel on the highest point. That year, I wondered if angels could grant special Christmas wishes. Just in case, I silently told her mine. She didn’t laugh or scold, just smiled sweetly while I inhaled the special aroma of the fir tree.
On Christmas Eve, we kids brought one of our everyday socks to the living room and Mom pinned them onto the back of an overstuffed chair since we had no fireplace with a mantel. We knew Santa would fill them with an orange, walnuts still in the shells and a few pieces of candy. Before we went to bed, Howard, Paul and I brought out all the colorful packages from the bedroom and watched as Dad arranged them under the tree.
It seemed almost magical with the lights, ornaments and the packages filled with secrets underneath, all watched over by the sweet pink angel on the top. All too soon, we were shooed off to bed with the annual reminder that the sooner we went to sleep, the sooner Christmas would arrive.
In the morning, my brothers found the gifts Santa brought them next to the tree, for Santa never wrapped his gifts. The boys knew immediately who they were from. Each of them received one of the items they’d marked in the Sears catalog weeks earlier. No Santa gift for me. Twelve year old girls didn’t play with dolls and they didn’t get gifts from Santa either. I swallowed my disappointment and settled down on the sofa waiting for Dad to pass out the wrapped packages, one by one.
We opened many packages that held practical items like new socks or pajamas and others that had small toys and comic books, some jewelry for me. I noticed a good-sized box in the corner that I hadn’t seen the night before. When we’d opened all the others, Dad handed me the big box. I looked at him and Mom, then at the angel on the tree. Could it possibly be?
“Open it,” Dad said.
I ripped the paper off and removed the lid, and gazed down on the face of the big baby doll I’d hoped for. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry or hug my parents. Instead, I lifted the doll carefully out of the box and cradled her against me.
I looked at my mother still in her bathrobe and slippers on this holiday morning. My bottom lip quivered once again, but I finally got the words out. “But you said I was too old for dolls.”
“Sometimes mothers are wrong. Daddy and I decided that if it was something you wanted so very much, you should have it. You’ve never had a lot of dolls like some girls.”
I laid my treasure on the sofa and rushed to my mother’s side. I hugged her and thanked her and then put my arms around my dad and squeezed hard, whispering my thanks in his ear.
Everyone moved to the kitchen to eat breakfast, but before I joined them, I stopped to say a silent thank you to the pink angel on the treetop. I picked up my special Christmas gift thinking about the fun Carole and I would have later in the day when her family joined ours for dinner.