Drifts of snow far higher than the little girl’s head lined the long lane that led uphill to her home. Between the mailbox and a bush at the corner, a sled waited to help carry a carload up to the house. This was before daddy got the snow blower attachment for the lawn tractor or the blade for the bigger tractor; he was sure the car wouldn’t make it to the house.
During times with less snow, they might have made a run for it, speeding upward, tires spinning, rear fish-tailing, as they bounced over the humps that daddy usually slowed for. Two bumpy tiers helped preserve the driveway during a gully-washing rain. Those bumps also made sled riding down the lane more exciting in snow like this.
She felt strange moving along in the cold darkness of the night as daddy pulled her up the hill on the sled while mommy trudged the knee-deep snow beside him carrying baby brother. All she could think about were the boxes and packages left behind in the car.
Christmas at grandma’s had been wonderful. Her family spent the afternoon unwrapping packages together. That evening, she sat playing on the floral patterned wool carpet that covered grandma and grandpa’s living room floor up to the simulated woodgrain linoleum strip along the walls. She heard grown-ups talking about going home from far away in her play. All of a sudden, they were helping her put on her coat. It wasn’t polite to interrupt while everyone was hugging and kissing goodbye, but where were her new gifts?
She watched daddy carrying cardboard boxes out the door. There was the large partially wrapped package that was Jimmy’s. Her brother pulled off part of the wrapping and lost interest, and the adults, content with seeing what was inside left it that way. Surely daddy collected her presents and packed them, too?
Outside, on the way to their turquoise, two door Oldsmobile, she asked her mother where her new doll was. She assured her daughter that daddy must have packed it with everything else; it was all in the car trunk. Must have packed it? If only she had held on to the doll, she might have been allowed to carry it on the ride home.
Her doll was the same kind that she showed grandma she wanted. Her eyes opened and closed and she had a hole between her lips to stick the tip of her plastic baby bottle that could be filled with real water. She wore a real diaper, a lot like Jimmy’s, over her plastic bottom that had a hole just like the one in her mouth. She and grandma carried the bottle to the little bathroom at the bottom of the stairs and filled it with water. Back in the living room, she sat on the floor and fed the water quickly into the doll’s mouth, and, as she lifted the doll from the diaper to see how things worked, she saw that it went through quickly, too, and dripped on grandma’s carpet.
Worried, she watched her grandma’s face, saying, “I’m sorry, Grandma,” but grandma didn’t seem upset. She said it was OK; it was just water, but they mustn’t feed the doll any more right now. So they dressed it, again, and laid it aside.
Now at the end of their lane she asked, “Can’t I carry my doll?” the minute her parents opened the car doors, but no, it was neatly packed with everything else. They made their way to the house without the doll.
“You didn’t forget my doll, did you, Daddy ?” she asked as they unbundled in the warm dining room of their old farmhouse. The fireplace had been banked before they left that afternoon, and there was still a glow of embers under the ash and coal that blanketed the grate.
She waited eagerly while her father set aside the fire screen and, “Clink, clunk, thunk,” the sturdy metal poker clanged between the rods of the grate knocking down ashes letting flickers of flame rise. He laid on a log, then donned his wraps again to make a trek to the car for another load.
She looked at her Christmas stocking, an olive drab, wool army sock, lying at one end of the stone hearth. Bumpy with surprises that morning, it lay flat and empty now, except for a rounded toe where she had left an orange. She knew there were oranges like it in their refrigerator. Likely, mommy put the orange in her sock last night after she went to bed, but pretending that a Santa Claus person comes to your house on Christmas Eve is magically exciting. She was glad her parents pretended it with her.
Soon, the door opened with a burst of cold air, and daddy, like a real Santa in snow-covered boots, handed her the doll. Taking it to bed with her would be the perfect ending for this Christmas day. (Yes, this little girl was me when I was about 3.)
MERRY, MERRY CHRISTMAS!