Happy Mother's Day!
I shared this childhood memory last year in honor of my mom's birthday and to wish her a Happy Mother's Day. At her request, I am posting it again. She is my hero and my rock. She gave me my love for reading; and, if I can be half the mother that she has been, my daughter will be very blessed.
I was four years old. Every Thursday was what my parents referred to as grocery day. They still call it that, though it has since moved to Wednesdays. Before we would get our groceries at the Air Force Base Commissary, we would always stop by the BX, which was the base exchange. On this particular Thursday, as we turned down an aisle, I saw her. She was the most beautiful baby doll I had ever seen. Chestnut brown curls, big brown eyes that really blinked, and rosy cheeks. I was smitten. Even though she was in a huge box, I picked her up and showed my mother my own big, blinking brown eyes. Mom agreed the doll was beautiful and looked her over, but she faltered when she saw the price. $26.00 for a doll in the 70’s was outrageous and way more than my blue collar parents, who had a budget to adhere to, could afford. I was raised to know better than to ask, especially when it wasn’t my birthday or Christmas, so I understood owning this doll wasn’t a reality. I did, however, ask if I could just carry her in her box while we shopped. So I lugged that box down every single aisle while Mom loaded our buggy with the usual weekly necessities. When it was time to check out, I put the dolly back on the aisle she belonged on, bid her goodbye, and told her I would see her next week.
And I did. Actually, for many weeks. Every Thursday, it became routine. I would rush to her aisle, pick her up, and carry her while we shopped. At four years old, I had no idea I was breaking my mother’s heart. I didn’t know that she longed to buy me that doll more than anything else in the world. I was just happy to have my weekly visits. The next Thursday, after my visit with the baby doll, whose name was Puddin’ (which I thought was the BEST name in the world for reasons only a four-year-old could explain), we finished our grocery day and headed home. While my parents unloaded the grocery bags and shared some hushed whispering, I became lost in a favorite cartoon. A half-hour later, I heard a car pull up. Excited over unexpected company, I raced to the door… but it was my mom’s car pulling up. Where had she gone? And why didn’t she tell me she was leaving? I instantly became terrified that something was wrong. My dad opened the door and told me to go see if she needed help with anything. As I approached the car, my fears were alleviated when I saw her beaming. I reached the car door as she opened it, and then she placed the most wonderful doll in the world in my arms. I burst into tears. I may have only been a little child, but I knew the enormity of the gift I had been given; and it was more than just a doll… it was a symbol of my parents’ love and a preview of what they were willing to sacrifice for me, their little girl.
I was twenty-three years old. I was renting my very first house on the other side of town. On my own for the first time in my life, I felt so grown-up and so independent. I loved that little house, and decorating it became my number one priority and a bit of an obsession. An older lady that I worked with, who only lived a few streets away, asked to come by and see my new house. She brought her friend with her; and, to my delight, they ooooed and aaaahed their way through my little home, complimenting every arrangement of furniture or décor we passed. When we came to my extra bedroom that held my childhood furniture; a few stuffed animals; and, of course, the most wonderful baby doll in the world; I told them the story of Puddin’ just as I have told you. My friend’s friend asked if she could hold her - see her more closely. I obliged, and she immediately turned her over and checked the back of my doll’s neck. Before I could ask, she remarked, “I thought so!” She then informed me that what I had in my possession was a Madame Alexander doll. I nodded like I knew exactly what that meant - I had no clue. She offered me a very large sum of money right then and there. I was only twenty-three. Every penny I earned went towards my new rent, utilities, and gas money. At that moment, I had exactly eighty-three cents in my bank account. I beamed at this woman and told her, “No, thank you. This doll is priceless.”
I am now in my thirties and have been happily married for many years. Fortunately, I have more than eighty-three cents in my checking account; and I have long ago put away childish things. Except for one: the most wonderful doll in the world now belongs to the most wonderful little girl in the world. My daughter adores Puddin’ and only gently handles her on rare occasions. Puddin’ is missing a bit of hair from too many brushings, and she has a few scars from too much cuddling; but, when I look at her, I don't see an old childhood toy... I only see one thing: a mother’s love for her little girl.