Today’s guest post is by Nancy Julien Kopp. I have been enjoying Nancy’s posts on her blog, Writer Granny’s World.
Here we are in the last month of the year and one of the busiest. I went to a Christmas party Friday evening and a Christmas Tea at my church Saturday. Definitely getting me in the mood for the season.
One of the things the hostess of the tea did was ask each person to tell about a Christmas gift that was very special. What a delight it was to listen to the 25-30 women share details about the time and circumstance of their gifts.
Stories ranged from engagement rings to dolls to pets and a few other things. Many prefaced the story by mentioning that there were very few presents given in their family when they were children because money was short. One woman told us about the Christmas her parents had no money for gifts so her mother made each child something from whatever she had on hand. This woman received twin rag dolls that turned out to be one of her very favorite gifts ever.
As the memories came alive, I couldn’t help but wonder if any of these women had written the story somewhere for her family. Had she ever even told her own children or grandchildren about that special gift? It’s precious memories like this that should—no, must—be recorded. As we moved from woman to woman and listened to their memories, I thought that many of them could turn into a story for a Chicken Soup for the Soul book. But would they? Most doubtful.
I wanted to tell each one that they had a great story and I’d write it for them. But, no, that would not be the thing to do. She should do it on her own.
How about you? What Christmas or Hanukkah memories have you written about for your family or for publication? Why or why not? There are reasons for both sides. I did write a memory of a special gift I received when I was six years old. It was published in one of the Chicken Soup for the Soul Christmas books quite a few years ago. I’ll post it below. Maybe it will trigger a holiday memory for you and give you something to write about for your own family or for another Christmas anthology.
Note from Marlene: Please do write your story . . . for fun or for someone to read. Just Write!
My Special Christmas Doll
A special doll named Katherine lives in my four-year-old granddaughter’s room. The doll perches on the window seat, arms out and head cocked a bit. Muted red polish covers her fingernails, and a few of her fingers and toes are chipped. The doll’s dark blonde hair could use a bit of attention, for it looks limp and badly in need of a stylist.
“This was my mommy’s doll,” Jordan tells me.
I pick up the doll, smooth the flower-print flannel gown she wears. “A long time ago, she belonged to me.” I give Katherine a little hug and place her on the window seat again.
Jordan grasps my hand. “I know that, Grandma. Will you tell me about her?”
I scoop Jordan into my arms. “Time for bed now, but maybe tomorrow we’ll talk about Katherine.” I tuck her into bed and kiss her twice.
Later that evening, I sip a cup of tea and think about the doll Santa brought me more than sixty years ago. The decades slip away like quicksilver, and I am six years old again. My parents and little brother are asleep, still snuggled under warm comforters, but I’m tip-toeing down the hallway early on Christmas morning. It’s so quiet and very dark in the hallway, but I know my destination and continue on.
When I reach the living room, the early morning light filters through the windows. I kneel in front of the decorated Christmas tree, and a little shiver runs up my spine. It’s cold in our apartment, but the shiver comes from what I spy next to the gaily wrapped packages. Santa left me a beautiful doll looking very much like Shirley Temple. She’s dressed in a bridal gown made of a snowy, gossamer material. Tiny satin rosettes run from waist to hem, and lace adorns the neckline and sleeves. The matching veil, trimmed in lace, surrounds her head like a billowy cloud. A white nightgown and soft blue robe lie beside her. It’s the kind seen only in the movies. So pretty! Her dark blonde hair curls to perfection, and her eyes appear to glow. I inch as close as I dare, for I know I should not touch her yet, not until Mommy and Daddy wake up. For now, the anticipation of holding her seems to be enough. I name her Katherine while I wait for my family to wake up.
Years later, I learned that my mother had made the bridal gown and night clothes for the doll in the late hours on December nights. My grandmother was the one who took hair she’d saved from my mother’s first haircut to a specialty shop where they created a wig for my doll. Hearts and hands joined in this special gift.
I played with Katherine for many years, then saved her in hopes I might pass my special doll to a daughter someday. My daughter, Karen, loved the doll too, even though she no longer had the original clothes. Once again, Katherine made a little girl happy. Karen secreted the doll away in hopes that she, too, could pass her on to her own child someday. Now, Karen’s daughter, Jordan, is the keeper of the doll. Though a bit tattered, Katherine’s smile is just as sweet, and her blue eyes still appear to shine. Even her wilted curls are precious to me and to Karen.
I think one day Jordan will feel the same, for she is our special family doll and always will be. I will tell my granddaughter about the Christmas I found Katherine under the tree, and later, when she’s older, I will relate the part of the story about Jordan’s great-grandmother who made special clothes for Katherine, and about her great-great-grandmother who saved her child’s hair to make into a wig for a doll.
This one cherished doll holds five generations of my family within her heart. Two created her, three have played with her, and all have loved her. I hope Jordan will have a daughter one day so that this chain of love might continue.