Friday, December 23, 2005

The Dollhouse

Christmas 1943 was a bleak time during World War II. Rationing had taken its toll and it was difficult to get many common items like sugar or real butter. This meant the cookie making was cancelled. I was only six years old and I was very disappointed. My mother made the most delicious fudge and divinity, but not this year.

We did have our trip downtown to see the Laughing Santa in the window of Emery Bird Thayer department store. And to visit the “real” Santa up on the fifth floor. I remember going up to whisper in the fat man’s ear that all I wanted was a dollhouse. I thought he agreed I had been a pretty good girl most of the time.

Riding the streetcar on the way home, I daydreamed of the dollhouse that would be under the tree. I was sure beyond a doubt that Santa was convinced and would bring it despite the war and all the bad things that were happening.

One day, closer to Christmas, my mother left me alone in the house for a few minutes while she went to the post office to mail her Christmas cards. I took advantage to sneak up into the attic and check out the very large package I had seen my father bring in one night after I was supposed to be in bed. There it was! The dollhouse!! I was so excited I could hardly keep it to myself that I had discovered it.

It was hard to fall asleep on Christmas Eve. I could hear the sounds of my parents putting up the tree, and the rustle of paper as they wrapped presents on the dining room table. Finally my eyelids got heavy and I drifted off. When I woke up in the morning, I could smell the coffee and I knew my parents were up and waiting for me to come out and see the tree and open presents.

This was going to be the magic moment of my life and my first “acting” job as I had to pretend to be surprised when I saw the dollhouse. So I ventured out into the living room ready to gasp in awe when I saw the wonderful gift. But I didn’t see it. Where was it?

At first I thought maybe it was behind the tree, or hidden in the den, or behind the couch. But no…there were several presents but no dollhouse. That year I got a fuzzy hat and mittens, some new snow pants, a doll from my Aunt Clara, a coloring book from my sister in New York. But no dollhouse. I will tell you that turned out to be a challenging acting job to hide my disappointment.

I never mentioned that Christmas to my parents, but after they were gone I did ask my sister. She told me they wanted to give it to me, and had even bought it. But they had to take it back because my father didn’t get the Christmas bonus they were counting on. They just couldn’t afford it.

That Christmas disappointment has stayed with me my whole life. Throughout the years (many!) there have been wonderful gifts. But the one I remember is the one I didn’t get. And I think it was a life lesson learned early on that made me better able to accept the inevitable disappointments that came later. It sure quashed my belief in Santa.


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