Yesterday's Magazette

1 – Never Too Old For Christmas

By Ruth Coe Chambers

Every year when Christmas rolls around, I have my own little pity party. It has nothing to do with the things that should really matter, but with the love of a long ago doll. Of all my childhood Christmases, the one I remember and love best is the year I received a Sonja Henie doll. Sonja Henie was a Norwegian figure skater turned movie star of the 1940s. The doll that bore her name was the most beautiful doll I ever owned and the most beloved. She had long golden braids, a skating outfit with a white velvet top and a green velvet skating skirt.

My doll lacked the sex appeal of Barbie, but I never missed it. She was flat chested and didn’t need a bra or a boyfriend. Most magical of all, she wore tiny ice skates. For a Florida child who had never seen snow or an ice skating rink, those skates were a dream come true. Sonja Henie would write in her autobiography that she had “wings on her feet” and perhaps she did, winning three gold medals in Winter Olympics.

So proud of my new doll, I took her next door to play with a neighbor girl. She had a Christmas doll, too, an ugly thing in a blue dress, sporting a pouting red mouth and orange hair that looked like cast off wool. The true spirit of Christmas was not with me when I suggested we play dolls, mine first to be the most beautiful doll in the world. Lacking a little of the Christmas spirit herself, the neighbor girl said no, hers would be the most beautiful doll in the world. ALL THE TIME. Why, her doll couldn’t be the most beautiful doll in the room, much less in the world. But the girl was older, taller, and determined, so I went home with the feel of metal skates in the palm of my hand.

Years passed, and I grew older as well. Too old for dolls. Too old for the love of my life. My heart still constricts with guilt when I remember giving my beautiful Sonja Henie to a young child I liked a lot.

Christmases came and went with grown-up gifts under the tree. My first high heels, a blue silk robe, my own radio. They were wonderful gifts, wonderful Christmases, but I didn’t love them. The magic left with my doll.

After I married and my husband was in graduate school, gift giving at Christmas became a stark affair.  Presents were few and food scarce. I dined on the memory of my Christmas with Sonja Henie. And then I determined to find her, that lovely girl with her little doll teeth. I wrote the mother of the child I’d liked so much. Poor Sonja Henie had been given to the Goodwill. But I didn’t quit searching. I could never pass an antique store or a doll shop without inquiring if they had my Sonja Henie.

After years of searching, a woman told me that she did indeed have the doll I was looking for. I could hardly believe my good fortune, worried I’d never be able to afford the price now that I’d found her. The woman brought out a doll I’d never seen. “Oh,” I told her, “that isn’t Sonja Henie”   The lady assured me this was indeed Sonja Henie. I described my doll, and she dismissed my claim with a faint smile.

“Madame Alexander made the only Sonja Henie doll. The doll you received,” she told me, “was just an imitation.”

I had one of those moments where your life passes before your eyes. All these years I’d searched for an imitation! Of course, my parents could never have afforded a Madame Alexander doll. They gave me a doll that fit their budget, an imitation I’d never find even though she was far lovelier than the authentic creation in the clerk’s hand.

Another Christmas is near and again Santa may not leave the doll of my dreams. But last year there was a train beneath the tree on Christmas morning. My husband insists it’s just like the one he loved as a boy. That’s the wonder, the miracle of memory. Not only will the memory of that Christmas, of that doll, remain with me, I’ve learned a valuable lesson. We’re never too old for something we love and hold dear.

*Ruth Coe Chambers, author of the novel, The Chinaberry Album, has written two prize winning plays.  Her short stories/articles have appeared in Pittsburgh Magazine, Water’s Edge, the Chicken Soup series, Hot, and other publications.  She is currently seeking representation for two new novels. Ruth’s doll story appeared in the anthology Dolls Remembered. She lives in Neptune Beach, FL, with her husband and two beloved dogs, Rhapsody and Lili.

Vol. 37 No. 4 – Yesterday’s Magazette – Winter- 2010/11


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