She was the first Christmas present I really remember. I was 4 years old. She was a big doll, very similar to this photo, almost as big as I was. I don't know why, but I called her The China Doll. She really was not like those petite porcelain china princess dolls. No, she was a like a mini adult, with luscious dark curly hair and big blue eyes. In fact, she strongly resembled Patsy Cline! Now, you don't play games with a doll this big. She was more of a bedroom decoration, something to dress up and set on the dresser, or prop up in the corner next to the old 78-RPM record player. That personal record player was probably an earlier Christmas present, or maybe a birthday present. It was something for me to use in my bedroom to play my little children's records on ... songs that would drive adults crazy, like Bingo, Frere Jacque, London Bridge is Falling Down, My Darling Clementine, Old MacDonald, and This Old Man (knick-knack-paddy-whack, give a dog a bone & drive your parents absolutely nuts)!
We had this Christmas routine in my family: My brother, sister & I would all go to bed very early Christmas eve, so that we could wake ourselves up as early as possible and secretly open a few Christmas presents. Not Santa's presents. You see, I don't recall ever believing in Santa Claus. Later, for my youngest sister's sake, I went along with the Santa story, but for myself, I have no memory of ever believing in a jolly old fat man sliding down the chimney & therefore no shattering memory of finding out I'd been lied to.
For some reason, my brother & I were convinced that my parents waited until midnight to set out our Christmas presents. We never conceived that they would just wait until we were all asleep. No, to us, midnight was the magic hour. There was somewhat of a competition between us to see who could wake up shortly after midnight in order to be the first one out to inspect the goods. Whoever woke up earliest would sneak out & very quietly open a few presents. Extreme patience & stealth was necessary to peel back the wrappings without making too much noise. If you were the first one out, you could usually get a few open before anyone else woke up. Once all of us kids were out opening presents, the noise level rose appreciably, which brought the parents out. My mom would then order us BACK TO BED to wait until daylight to open the rest. Oh, we were greedy little ones, and we counted on the parents being too tired to make much of a fuss over our uncontrollable desire to quick-start Christmas Day.
I recall finding The China Doll near the Christmas Tree. She wasn't wrapped, but set up against the sandstone hearth & tagged with my name. I knew she was mine by the way she was looking at me. She was so big, she was really more like a friend than a little baby doll. She was the type of big doll a young girl could tell all her secrets to. She also guarded my bedroom at night, to make sure that no monsters could just waltz in & wreak havoc while I slept. She failed a few times, but I never held it against her.
For dolls to play with, my sister and I had the usual assortment of Chatty Cathy's and Betsy Wetsy's. For some reason, the idea of changing a wet doll diaper was highly desireable! We played the usual kinds of games with them ... like pretending the dolls were our babies, or teaching them school lessons, or setting up full place settings with tea & cookies to "feed" them & teach them table manners. We basically treated them like smaller versions of ourselves. I don't recall naming my dolls, but my sister named one of hers, "Sha-rue-ah", perhaps anticipating the whole Xena warrior phenomenon.
Now, don't tell me boys don't play with dolls. My brother played with our dolls! However, I must admit, his idea of doll "games" usually involved imagining new ways to "execute" them. Every one of our dolls was "beheaded" many times, usually preceded by an elaborate mock trial during which the doll was found guilty of some crime against humanity. They were accused of breaking various commandments, like hiding roller skate keys, or knocking over the dog's water bowl, or failing to replenish the toilet paper, sometimes they were spies-who-told-lies. The list was endless. Fortunately, the dolls' heads were removeable, so it was a simple matter to stage an "off with their heads" moment, complete with catsup on the headless neck. For my brother, I think these games with our dolls were an extension of his army men mock battles. We girls found it hilarious & used to giggle ourselves silly defending our dolls. Alas, none were spared, all received the executioner's sword. Our parents probably hoped we'd become lawyers or judges, hah!
So, what happened to The China Doll? She disappeared one year during a move! Whether my mom had decided that I wasn't really playing with her much anymore & therefore it was time to donate her to The Rez (a story for another day), or whether she was truly lost in the move, I don't know. I do know she had seen me through some frightening childhood nightmares by exerting a calming influence in my bedroom. But I quickly rebounded from her loss when I received a Barbie Doll for Christmas that same year. An original brunette 1960 in a zebra suit, just like this photo! Barbie was definitely an eye-opener, an all-american girl's dream. Hot-Cha-Cha! Never mind that no one except some freakazoid starving model can live up to that dream, Barbie made me wish fervently for a magic visit from The Boob Fairy. And Barbie was a doll that my brother NEVER messed with ... out of respect or intimidation, I'm not sure.
I hope you didn't mind this little foray into christmas past. I realize Christmas isn't all about gifts, there's the religious aspect, as well as traditional celebrations with friends & family, even winter solstice recognizing that the days will now begin slowly turning slightly longer.
I'd like to show you the band of dangerous doll-beheaders in their prime, but those pictures are not digital. Here, however, is the gang in their current existence, this week, my dad & me sitting, surrounded by my sisters & brother. On Christmas morning, I'm sure my mom's soul will still be ordering us BACK TO BED until daylight. MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE!!!