Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Christmas Doll Story

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!!!


TomCat said...

One year when I was very small, my father said he would cancel Christmas because of my behavior. Very early, I sneaked down, just like you. Well, one cat had chased the other cat up the Christmas tree, and it had come down. I entered the living room to find the tree on it's side in the midst of smashed decorations.

Instant trauma.

D.K. Raed said...

Those darn cats! Hope you didn't get blamed for the toppled tree, Tomcat!

Larry said...

Don't let your childhood be relived today D.K or you may have real trouble this Christmas.

D.K. Raed said...

Why, Larry, I don't know WHAT you mean! I LOVED my childhood xmases. It's the future ones I'm not too hopeful about.

enigma4ever said...

OMg.....poor tomcat...lordy- that would be traumatic...I guess you could always explain that Santa was drunk not mad at any children ( oh, that is not good either....oh dear)....

DK I loved your childhood tales and so good to see a photo of you and your family, and your dad....lovely.....and good to know that headless moments were so appreciated by all of you...take care...hope you are feeling better...

Fran said...

Great story. For me it was *baby Theresa*. She was lifelike & was in a mostly pink one piece jumper. Adults really thought she was the real deal. I got her for Christmas, and packed that baby around all the time. One I set her down to "sleep" & put a blankie on her & a repair man tiptoed by, thinking it was a real baby. Fast Forward 35 years later-- one day a box arrived in the mail. My Mom sent her to me. Her eyes still blink (w gravity), but her hair was pretty messed up-- she was worn for the wear... kind of bald in spots. (Did I really drag her around that much?). Wow! Besides her eyes that blink, there was nothing mechanical about this doll. She didn't walk, crawl or spew fluids of any kind (that was kind of the craze back in the day).
Other toys that I remember- a purple mechanical Dino the Dinosaur (Flintstones) he was a battery operated deal. Rubicks cube- I could never get it back in color order, but spent lots of time trying.

My oldest son tried a 2 am *let's start xmas NOW* attempt one year, but we halfway cranked our eyes open long enough to tell him the 2 am program ain't happening. Parents are not very poetic in those pre holiday wee hours situations.
GO BACK TO BED is about as creative they can get
Thanks for sharing your toy story.

D.K. Raed said...

Enigma: I haven't thought about those dolls in years, but something about xmas always brings out a good childhood memory & this year it was dolls. I hope the doll executions weren't too graphic. I tried to be delicate. It's probably obvious we were big fans of old horror movies. I was head-over-heels in love with Vincent Price! ps, I think my dad kinda resembles Ray McGovern? Someday I'll post his WWII tatoos, inked in China & the Philappines 60+ yrs ago.

Fran: I think I was beyond that phase by the time of those real life-like baby dolls. Ours were hard plastic with removable legs, arms & heads (which is what made them such fun to dismember). I do recall the soft-bodied lifelike Thumbelina doll if she was the one that smacked her lips together. Wow, what a great present to get YOUR Theresa doll back 35-yrs later! She was obviously loved. I wish my mom had saved some of our dolls & other toys, especially that original Barbie which is probably worth a small fortune now. Rubics -- I think those cause brain damage! Glad you were able to impose a more decent xmas schedule for your son. My parents were overwhelmed. Three kids in 3 yrs! Can you imagine?

dada said...

Nice Xmas memories, D.K. They helped trigger my own. Of "Brown Bear" (my original teddy bear), Torchy (stuffed dog) and Panda (biggest of the three). They were my earliest/best companions. And always together, they became great friends to one another.

I would love to still have them (like Fran's suddenly reincarnated) but, alas, they died in a flood when, as a HS teenager, the unrelenting rain seeped into the storage room where they were kept in a box and they each suffered a terrible death by drowning.

But it was a valuable lesson of loss that repeats many times throughout one's life.

BTW, great photo! Thanks and Merry Christmas!!

Lulu Maude said...

Lookin' good, DK!

Happy holidays.

D.K. Raed said...

Dada: I hate to point out that a stuffed animal named "Torchy" was bound to come to a bad end. The "flood" may have been Brownie or Panda's attempt to put out the firebug's expression of dissatisfaction over his dentention in a dark storage facility. But let's hope his spirit lives on, as an inspiration to all those wishing to escape whatever boxed-in existence they find themselves in. Let's also learn something from Brownie & Panda's overzealous attempt to quash the freedom-seeking Torchy: that heavy handed crackdowns on free expression can result in wholesale destruction of all.

Lulu: Happy holidays to you, too! Looks like you'll be having xmas snow. ps, I was thinking of firing the photographer for not telling me to pull up my turleneck, but he works cheap.

Fran said...

dk~ you have me laughing out loud with your torchy analysis.

dada said...

Egads! You have me rethinking the demise of the three best friends of my youth! But if there IS any truth to your surmise of their demise, then "heavy handed crackdowns on free expression can result in wholesale destruction of all," (as you so elegantly put it) is their legacy. Thanks for the new perspective

krsty1213 said...

Well, as the "youngest sister" I inherited those early sixties Barbies with their poodle hair and way too modest swim suits. I thaught they were so old fashion. Because the new Barbies talked. They has a string on their back that you pulled. Can't remember what they said but they were very "Mod" looking and had long staight hair. That was around 1970But before that I got a "Thumblina" doll for Christmas. It had a knob on the back and when wound the doll made baby-like movemments. That doll wasn't wrapped either. What a magical surprise to find the doll on x-mas morn making those movements! What great timing santa has!