Guest View: The Substitute Doll
(Christine Kole, Dec. 20, 2015)
When I was about 5 or 6 years old in the 1950s, television was still fairly new. There were already all kinds of toy commercials, especially before Christmas. I would watch “Romper Room” or “The Mickey Mouse Club”, and then spy the newest doll that was advertised on the screen. There were “Betsy Wetsy”, “Tiny Tears” and Shirley Temple dolls, and dolls that walked and talked and drank and wet and even kissed. I wanted them all.
Being the oldest of three, I had a strong maternal drive, and loved to carry my little brother around and kiss him until he screamed. My younger sister and I doted on him, and loved to play house with our dolls and tea sets and such. Back then, moms stayed at home, caring for the kids, cooking and cleaning, and those were our role models. Life was simple, and it was good.
Our family lived modestly in a small home in Warren, we owned one car, and I believe my Dad was on strike with his union during that Christmas of 1958. Times were tough, but we kids were clueless. One day I sat on Santa’s lap at the department store within earshot of my parents, and asked for a “Tiny Tears” doll and other toys and books. I’m sure their faces fell when my sister climbed up and recited her list. There was also my brother to remember for Christmas, bills were piling up, and groceries needed to be bought.
Christmas morning arrived, and we rushed to the tree in our matching pajamas. There was a doll for me, of course, but she was not “Tiny Tears”. She was a somewhat plain little rubber doll that came with a diaper and a bottle. My Dad remembers to this day that I told them that I would “pretend” that she was “Tiny Tears”. It broke their hearts. But we had a lovely holiday, anyway, going to church, visiting with relatives and playing with cousins.
The next night, Dad initiated an after dinner game of hide and seek. I ran to hide in my usual spot behind the sofa. I looked down, and there was a beautiful pink box covered in cellophane. Inside was my beloved “Tiny Tears” with the curly rooted dark hair! I squealed with delight and my parents and sister came running. “Oh, that Santa!” my Mom exclaimed, with my brother on her hip, “He played a trick on Christine! He hid her doll for her to find today!” We were all smiles, and I could not believe my good fortune, or this mischievous side of Santa Claus.
Many years later, on the Christmas before I moved away from my parents home when I was 19, my parents gave me a beautiful doll on Christmas morning. I appreciated the clothes, the record albums and the jewelry under the tree, but this gift had me a bit puzzled. Then I read the note from my Dad. “Once when you were little, we were broke and I tried to give you a doll we could afford. It wasn’t the one you wanted, and I regretted it ever since. I vowed that I would never do that again. Love, Dad” I was in tears remembering that Christmas so long ago, and how my parents sacrificed to make their little girl’s wish come true. The doll I now held in my arms was named “Chrissy”, and if you pulled on her swatch of long dark hair, it grew. She wore a satin robe, and I still have her. I still have “Tiny Tears” in the window seat in my bedroom.
Today I am a mother of three grown children, and four grand children. I have worked with children since I was a teen, and my maternal instincts have surely been satisfied! I feel very blessed to have the love of my parents, and memories of all the Christmases they made magical for us. My wish is that the small child in each of us can experience the magic of love, especially during this poignant, beautiful season.
Christine Kole is a Ferndale resident.
Guest View: The Substitute Doll