Friday, December 25, 2009

The Christmas Doll


The Christmas Doll

by Gina Below

She could make so much from so little, a scrap of colored fabric, a small amount of thread, a minuet amount of yarn, a nondescript flour sack, old torn sheets. Fabric found on sale or clearance became beautiful dresses, coat's, pants, curtains or shirts. Nothing was ever wasted. The artist in her saw beauty in what most people would throw away, and the practical woman in her recycled whatever she could. She had little choice in most cases, but just because it was a cast off did not mean it could not be beautiful and useful. This year would be no different, beauty was everywhere if one looked at it from the right direction and this year would be the year she would make our Christmas Dolls.

We were her little girls and we still believed in the magic of Christmas, so stolen moments of cutting out of patterns, sewing and embroidery were found here and there. Sewing late into the night after all the other necessary chores had been done with her weary eyes trying to focus, but it made her smile to do this for her baby girls. I was the oldest of the little girls at six and a half with my missing front teeth and my tomboy demeanor, but she knew that this gift would make me smile. Smile just like the dolls face she had so lovingly embroidered with the dancing blue eyes and the heart on her chest that would forever remind her little girls how much she loved them.

My older sisters would run interference for her helping her keep her secret from being found out by curious little ones. If the patter of little feet were heard tripping on the linoleum floor over the hum of the sewing machine they would try their best to waylay us until all evidence of the surprise could be hidden. Scooped up into loving arms and gently put back into bed after a trip to the potty or a sip of water had soothed our young questioning minds. We would be none the wiser, her secret safely hidden in a pile of ongoing mending. It was harder to hide her smile that almost gave her away.

Christmas morning dawned clear and cold, no snow again this year for our Southern celebration. If we hurried maybe we could catch Santa as we hastily scurried down the hallways cold linoleum floor. Would he really have a round belly? Would it shake like a bowl full of jelly? Would he really say Ho Ho Ho? Would his suit be red? Would his reindeer be on the roof waiting for him? Could we pet them? How did he get in if we had no chimney? Had we been good enough or would it be a lump of coal under the tree? The last voiced thought made us pause at the living room door each of us replaying the past years transgressions in our head. Our bravado wavered, but only for a moment as my younger sister eyes flashed with excitement and her hand reached out and turned the doorknob. The heady smell of pine greeted us as the door opened and our eyes took in the gaily wrapped packages under the tree that we had helped decorate and we stopped in our tracks. Was one of those for us? We shook with anticipation as our older siblings followed us in.

We knelt if front of the bounty looking from one to the other, touching each package gently wondering if it was ours. We could not read yet, but I being the oldest little girl I could only make out my own name and we looked to our older siblings for help. They smiled and picked up our packages for us and handed them off to us before they sought out their own. Mother and Daddy stood in the doorway watching, smiling. Colored paper fell away and littered the floor around us as we tore into our surprises.. The collective excited voices of seven laughing children raised to another level with "Look! Look! Look what I got" or 'What did you get, let me see". We oohed and awwed over everything and we jumped up to run and show Mother and Daddy what Santa had left for us. "Look Mamma, Look! Look at the doll Santa got me!' as I hugged her soft cloth body close to mine and spun in a circle. "She is beautiful! don't you think so Mamma?" "I do" she said, "just as beautiful as you", and I smiled my best toothless grin at her and spun around again. "She's nearly as big as me, too! Look Mamma!". She could find no words of reply this time, but she nodded her head and smiled at me as she smoothed my short brown hair with her hand. Someone else called for her attention as I spun away toward the tree, "Look Mamma, Look!" they exclaimed.

Many years have passed since that long ago Christmas morning when my Christmas Doll came to be mine. Her white apron is missing and the lace on her dress edge is frayed, large blue uneven childish stitches mend a torn seam in the sleeve of her dress. Her hair has been replaced by a grownup me after a accident involving a sweet black lab puppy named Sadie. But the long Pippy Longstocking braids are the same original hairdo. Her eyes are still a dancing blue and her smile never wavers and her tattooed heart still proclaims "I Love You" and she has a place of honor safe on a high shelf in my grown-up kitchen so she can watch over me. More than once she has heard my own children exclaim "Look, Mamma Look!" and she still makes me smile even though she's not nearly as big as me anymore.
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Gina grew up on a farm in rural Cullman, Alabama. One of seven children, number five to be exact. She is a truck driver's daughter with a heavy dose of Southern Baptist upbringing thrown in for good measure on her Mother's side. She and her husband of 25 years live on a farm in Central Alabama where they raise cattle and their four children. Her husband Steve's book "Pigskin Dreams" has just been published and for more information go to www.pigskindreams.com.

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***Photos of doll from: http://www.aktraditions.com/html/millie.html - you can purchase the pattern there.

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