Friday, June 26, 2015

Ugly Doll--8th Birthday Memories

It was my eighth birthday and aside from looking forward to my upcoming baptism, like most kids I was focused on the most important part of the evening: presents! Unfortunately, I had to wait for Janice to come home from work before the ceremonious unwrapping could begin. At this point in my life I had experienced only one “friend” birthday party and knew I wouldn’t have another “friend” party until I turned twelve. Mom wasn’t all about noisy random kids in her house.  It stressed her tonight, it would just be family--all seven of us.

On this particular evening, I remember Mom was anything but stressed.  In fact, she was uncommonly carefree and giddy--to the point of giggling...a lot.  I remember thinking her silliness was strange, but it wasn’t until my sister finally made it home and it was time to open presents that my Mom’s behavior began to make me nervous.  The feeling was akin to the feeling you get upon realizing that someone is whispering about you. . .or that your fly is down. . .or both. But it didn’t end there. As I proceeded to open the gifts from my siblings, my mother sat in the corner--smirking and casting knowing glances at my father.  Then, when all of the presents were seemingly gone, Mom dismissed herself then reemerged from the other room carrying the last gift, the grand finale, the piece de resistance.  Holding back her laughter, she handed me a nicely wrapped box and explained that its contents included something she had ordered by mail but it wasn’t exactly what she had expected.  “You can say that again,” my dad added, sending mom into uncontrollable fits of laughter, regaining her composure only long enough to assure me that we would go shopping for something better in the upcoming days.

Great. An embarrassing gift, I thought to myself as I hesitantly peeled back the pastel paper. Removal of the box’s lid revealed a mass of packing peanuts and...a doll?  A look of confusion washed over my face which was apparently mistaken by my parents as a look of disgust--and that really set them off.  They both broke into what can only be described as a full-on Bert and Ernie laugh jam.

“I don’t get it,” I said, “What’s so funny?”  At this, Mom sensed my confusion (not about the doll but rather why my parents were laughing about it) so she explained.  

“Oh, honey, I thought I was ordering you the most beautiful dolly.  In the catalog she had pretty blonde hair, a hand-painted face, and her hat and dress were...well, detailed and well-made.” She went on to share how she had opened the box just as I had, only to find that the doll inside was not at all what she expected, especially when she considered how much she had paid for it. But, rather than be upset about it, Mom thought the doll was ugly enough to be considered comical, and  it soon turned into a family joke--a joke that lives on some thirty-six years later. I suppose, for posterity’s sake,  my Dad sat us all down that evening for a picture: me, Mom, and my new dolly that never officially received a name (other than Ugly). 

However, instead of the requisite “Say Cheese” Dad usually solicited before snapping a photo, he instead said, “Okay, on the count of three, everyone say “Rip off!”  This time, I laughed too.

8th birthday gift.jpg

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