Rated: E · Short Story · Family · #1362185
A true story from my younger years
The Doll That Santa Took Away
I ripped into the red and white package with the enthusiasm only a six year old could muster. Inside the package was a black baby doll, with bright red lips and a blue flowered dress. I tore through the cellophane top and removed my treasure. She had lace socks and a pretty ribbon tied in her short black hair. If you turned her over, she would say "MaMa!" She had that new doll smell, and I loved her deeply.
Mommy and Daddy gave her to me shortly after my birthday. They told me she was an early gift from Santa, and to take good care of her, or Santa might take her away.
Every night from that point forward, Lisa slept with me; embraced by my six year old arms, her weighted sleepy eyes closed in her pretend slumber.
Lisa ate lunch with me, then I would "feed" her. We sat on the front porch, gazing at the Kentucky hillsides and having tea from my chipped, hand-me-down tea set. I would take her for buggy rides, and together we would watch the coal trains thunder past our back yard. I even took her to the spooky old outhouse, because I was afraid to go by myself.
The days flowed gently into each other, and soon it was Christmas time. I remembered what Mom had said about Santa taking my doll away if I didn't take care of her. I noticed she was missing a sock, and her hair was matted from too many washings. My brother had marked on her face with crayon, and some of her eyelashes were missing. I only remembered loving her, and trying to be a good mommy.
That night, a week before Christmas, Mom made chicken and dumplings. I sat at the table twirling the bowl with my spoon. My brother scolded me. "Sissy, if you don't eat, Santa will find out!"
I decided to eat my chicken and dumplings, even though I had no appetite for them. A few minutes later, I threw up and began to cry.
Suddenly, there was a loud knock on the door. My mom said "Who could it be at this hour?"
She opened the door, and there stood Santa, in all his red and white glory. "HO HO HO!" he shouted in his booming baritone. I was petrified! I hid behind the door. I remembered the song that said you better not shout, you better not cry...
I had been crying and I didn't want Santa to see me.
While I hid behind the door, Santa handed my mother a faded floral pillowcase bulging at the seams. Evidently, someone had put us on a charity list for Christmas. We weren't rich, but we weren't poor either. My mother and Father lived separately, because Dad found a well paying job in Michigan and was trying to find us a proper place to live. Daddy would send us money every week for our expenses, and we never wanted for anything.
My mom was a little put out by the charity, but thanked Santa and politely closed the door. Inside the pillowcase was a box of Tinker Toys and a Tonka truck for my brother; a block wagon and new tea set for me. For my mother there was a mirrored brush and comb tray, with a dainty glass atomizer bottle. In the very bottom there was a canned ham, a bag of oranges, a sack of walnuts and some ribbon candy in a round metal tin.
Three days later, Daddy came down from Michigan to stay with us for Christmas. I was always happy to see him; even happier when I saw his car was loaded with wrapped presents. He told us that Santa came to his house early and dropped them off. He put them under the tree, and they sat there, taunting us. If you remember being six years old, you know how difficult it is to see a present and not want to open it!
That night, as every night, I hugged Lisa while I slept. I was so overjoyed at Dad's homecoming that I forgot my Mother's warning. I awoke to the fragrance of frying bacon. I could smell biscuits baking, and I knew that meant gravy was soon to follow. I reached for Lisa. She was gone! In a blind panic, I ripped off the bed covers, and looked under my pillow. I checked beneath the bed, in my dresser and in the chiffarobe. "Mommy!" I wailed, huge tears rolling down my face.
Mom came in my room with her hands on her hips. "What's with all the water works?" she asked.
"Lisa's gone! I had her last night, and now she's gone!"
"Well," my Mother began in her patronizing tone, "Perhaps if you had taken better care of her, Santa wouldn't have taken her away!"
She left the bedroom, and continued breakfast, while I sobbed pitifully into my pillow. I could hear my dad's deep voice from the kitchen, and I wondered how they could be so calm when my entire world was falling around me.
Even with Daddy there, my next three days were pure agony. I was so upset about my missing doll, I moped around the house, staring balefully at the tree with it's twinkling lights. I even lost enthusiasm for the presents under the tree, and for all things Christmas; including the box of chocolate covered cherries that my Papaw brought over.
Christmas Eve night was upon us. We hung our stockings on the mantle, made popcorn and sat around singing into our reel to reel tape recorder. My mom played the guitar. She and Dad harmonized beautifully. We did not limit ourselves to Christmas songs. Their favorite was "Dream Dream Dream," And my specialty was "Jeanie's Afraid Of The Dark:" a sad country song about a little girl who dies and is buried with an "eternal flame" headstone.
It was hard to go to sleep that night, but with the warm buzz of Mommy's homemade hot cocoa, the Sandman eventually came.
I was awakened to my brother shaking my shoulder. It must have been four in the morning. "Sissy! Santa came! Santa came!"
I sprang to life instantly and ran barefoot into the living room, my hair sticking up like a baby hedgehog.
The tree looked as if it regurgitated onto our floor. Presents stacked up and spilled out of every conceivable nook.
The pile took over half of the small room. I looked at the mantle, and my stocking was straining with fullness. Out of the top peeked a flocked squirrel, with enormous orange eyes. I couldn't wait to empty that stocking! In our house, we could access our stockings before Mom and Dad got up, but the presents were off limits. So my brother and I sat in the floor, emptying our stockings piece by piece, savoring each little surprise. My favorite was the toe of the stocking, which was always filled with nuts, candies and an orange.
Mom and Dad got up after several hours. In reality, it was only one hour, but you know how time passes on Christmas Morning!
The mayhem began. One by one we were handed our gifts, and all the exquisite wrapping was undone in a matter of minutes. We tore into the gifts, and a pile of paper near as tall as Daddy was accumulated. We opened and unwrapped until there were only two presents left; an oddly shaped oblong package for my brother, and a shimmery gold wrapped box for me.
I admired the splendid package. The present was almost too pretty to open! I knew Mommy would want to save the paper, so I gently lifted the taped ends and removed the heavy foil wrapping without much damage. I stared at the box before me. It was my doll.
Her hair was perfect, her face unmarked, and she had all her eyelashes and socks. The cellophane on the front of the box was undisturbed. I looked at Mommy and Daddy. They were smiling at me. I was so happy, I sat there crying, holding the box with the doll inside. Mom wiped her eyes and said, "Aren't you going to open her?"
I was paralyzed with joy! It was a wonderful feeling. I took Lisa out of the box and cradled her, taking in her new doll smell. I vowed to take better care of her in the future.
My brother's present was a Gibson acoustic guitar. He sat on our circular ottoman plucking out tunes, oblivious to everyone around him.
It was a wonderful Christmas!