By MARY KOEP
In the fall the Christmas catalogs came in the mail — Sears and Roebuck and Montgomery Ward. We spent hours poring over pictures and dreamed of Christmas.
We were four little children in an America coming out of the Depression. We attended an eigth-grade country school. Many chores awaited us, both before and after school.
I was 10 years old. Every year my Christmas wish was for a doll. There was nothing I loved more. They were plain, little dolls with cloth bodies, painted faces and hair, simple little dresses. I named each one and wrapped them in tiny blankets my mother made from scraps of cloth. I rocked and sang to them and kissed each one before going to school each morning. As soon as I got home I hugged each one before going about my chores.
So, when my mother asked “What do you want for Christmas?” — of course I said “A doll.”
My mother said “You are 10 years old — You are too old for a doll.”
I was stunned! How could I be too old for a doll?
About a week before Christmas Dad went to town — nine miles away — to take the milk, cream and eggs to sell and buy the items on the list my mother gave him. We knew the list included items Santa would bring.
What had my mother put on the list for me?
Several times she asked me “What do you want for Christmas?” My answer, always, “A doll.”
Each time she said “You’re too old for a doll.”
The wonderful fragrances of Christmas baking filled our house. Dad cut a pine tree, we decorated it with garlands, tinsel and a few glass ornaments. There was a Christmas program at school, families came to visit and enjoy as the children performed.
Christmas Eve meant midnight Mass. Farmers’ lanterns lit the small country church. Wood burning in the furnace snapped and hissed. How beautiful the simple creche, the organist and choir singing “Christ, the Savior is born.”
Then home and to bed — What would I find Christmas morning?
Our parents were up, adding wood to the stove as we four children hurried downstairs. On the corner of the table was a box with my name — I opened it — There was a doll — the most beautiful doll I had ever seen. She had long auburn hair with curls, “real” lashes on brown eyes that opened and shut — a pink taffeta dress with smocking and rosebuds. Real little shoes and socks.
I could only cradle and hug her. Oh joy! Oh joy!
My mother gave a little sniff.
“I still say she’s too old for dolls.”
My dad — my often stern and taciturn dad said, “It was all she wanted. It’s Christmas.”
(As a side note, I still have this doll and she is still beautiful. She has a few little cracks in her face and legs and her dress is fading. Her little shoes are on the verge of disintegration. We have grown old together. I have a little chair for her; she sits in my bedroom. She is dear to me still and that long ago Christmas is vivid in my memory.)