In researching Christmas customs for my latest release Darcy and Elizabeth Will’s First Christmas, I learned that in Regency times Christmas gifts were not the custom between grownups, however a child might receive one special toy. That got me to thinking about my own childhood and memories of my favorite Christmas gift.
I should preface the story by simply saying that my mother spent her time finding devious ways to be cruel to her daughters. Most people are blessed with loving mothers; we were not. My sisters and I did receive one gift for our birthday and one for Christmas—but the present always came with the same unhappy ending.
For my seventh Christmas I asked Santa Claus for a bride doll. I hoped it would look like the pretty lady in my parents’ wedding portrait. I imagined the doll might be as beautiful and sweet as the slender figure encased in a white satin dress, standing and smiling, at my father’s side in the picture.
Christmas morning arrived and Santa Claus had surely visited our apartment, as there under the tree was a doll-sized box. Trembling with excitement I opened the white package and found the doll of my dreams. She wore a white dress that clung to her body and fanned out at the bottom revealing tiny white slippers with a touch of silver on each toe. Her brunette hair was styled just like my mother’s hair in the portrait.
I treasured that doll for the five days of our Christmas holiday from school. I slept with it and never left it out of my sight, because any loved gifts would always disappear within days of receiving them—never to reappear again.
Being a child of smudges and scabs, while playing wedding with the doll, I accidentally put a spot on the her left arm. The odd shaped crescent stain would not come off her porcelain skin. It was a sad event, but worse was yet to be.
The day came when it was time to return to school. I could not take the doll with me, so I tucked it carefully under my pillow. I knew in my heart that it would disappear like the few other toys that had passed through my hands, never to be seen again. I sat in my first grade class that day with a lump of anxiety wedged in my throat. Would there be any chance that my lovely bride doll might be there when I returned home? Silently I prayed to everyone, including Santa Claus.
After school I raced up the stairs of our apartment building, rushing to the bedroom I shared with my sisters. Carefully, fearfully, I lifted my bed pillow aside. My heart fell with an empty thud—my bride doll was gone! I searched everywhere in the hopes I was wrong. But then with tears dripping from my eyes, I asked my mother where my doll was.
“The bride doll is on the top shelf of the hall closet,” she said.
The hall closet was like the black hole of treasured gifts. No toy ever returned from the hall closet. “Why?” I begged to know.
“I’ll decide when you are old enough to have it,” she said, smugly.
I was never old enough to have it, but only because it meant so much to me. Many times I would pull-push a chair into the hall and climb up trying to see that top shelf. But I could not see so high into the darkness of the closet. I soon grew wise enough to know the doll was not there. The closet shelf was a way station for toys that meant too much to my sisters and me.
A few years later, we visited out-of-state cousins who were almost strangers to me.
There in my cousin’s collection of dolls sat my bride doll. The crescent shaped smudge on the doll’s left arm confirmed the empty ache I felt. There was nothing I could do except wait until my cousin was not looking, and then I kissed my bride doll goodbye.
I would love to hear of your favorite gift from childhood. Do you know where it is now? Please share your memories.
If you should ever come across a bride doll in an antique shop or on eBay, and she bears a crescent-shaped smudge on her left arm, please contact me.
Peace, love & laughter,
Newest Release: Pride and Prejudice Regency Christmas Variation
Darcy and Elizabeth’s son Will celebrates his first Christmas with his twin cousins, Charles and Fitz Bingley. Join in the felicity at Pemberley as Darcy revives an old family custom, while little Will begins to learn the joy of giving. Along for the fun are Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, Georgiana, Lydia, and three attentive nursemaids. And of course, it wouldn’t be a comedy without Caroline Bingley.