Christmas Eve is always a good time for a story ... don't you think? I do and I always have.
Tonight, I was thinking about the Christmas that I was sick. I had to go to an old photo album to find these pictures to clue me into the exact year ... December 1958. I think it's really interesting how childhood memories are so sketchy before the age of five or six, but that Christmas is pretty vivid, as childhood memories go !
I had just turned four years old and I was very sick with a stomach bug and a high fever. Christmas Eve was spent curled on the couch that my mother had covered with an old bedspread ... just in case I puked. I remember lolling on the couch mid-day, wishing we could put the Christmas tree lights on, but alas, it wasn't dark and there were rules for such. Instead, I leafed through my copy of 'A Night Before Christmas' and (believe it or not!) a volume or two of Grolier's Book of Knowledge Encyclopedia, and the Montgomery Ward Christmas Wish Book, looking at the pictures and dreaming about what Santa might bring. I was wishing for a ballerina doll, a tea set and huge box of crayons.
Late in the day, I got to watch The Friendly Giant on the TV, a big old brown box of a TV that I remember had a shiny brown and gilt fabric stretched over the speaker and a big convex screen of thick smooth glass. Mom came in while the show was on and wanted me to take a warm bath and get into clean jammies. I remember pitching a fit when she wanted me to strip down with the TV on. I was scared that the people on the TV could see me naked, so I insisted that I run into the bathroom to get undressed. We laugh now about my childish reasoning, but it still makes perfect sense to me. I mean, really, if Santa can see you when you're sleeping and he knows when you're awake, then people behind the screen that are looking right out at you can definitely see what's going on! Right? Anyway, she promised we could put on the Christmas tree lights and have soup when I got out of the tub.
Things get sketchy again after the TV incident. I remember being really shivery and not complaining when she put me to bed downstairs with a hot water bottle and an extra layer of blankets. I remember that she brought a bucket that she used to wash the kitchen floor and put it by the bed side. I remember she put a cool hand on my forehead and told me to call her if I felt sick. I remember that she kissed me on both cheeks and left the bedroom door open. I remember the light was on in the hallway that lead back toward the kitchen and living room. I remember listening to the television sounds of 'Wagon Train' and my brothers and sister joking and talking. And I remember snuggling with that warm hot water bottle and my Linda doll.
The next thing I remember is my brother, Tim waking me up early to see what came in my stocking. My stocking was a thick red felt that had embossed white print on it ... I honestly have no idea what was in the stocking because my eyes were full of that ballerina doll that lay beside it and a thick book of fairy tales with pictures that were colorful and took up whole pages! There was a big cardboard box that was full of little tea cups and saucers and the prettiest teapot ... blue and white china! How wonderful it all seemed, even with my queasy stomach and quivery, shaky, sick feeling!
I have the ballerina doll to this day. She has a red tulle and faux velvet tutu, sheer beige tights and jointed legs, little pink toe shoes, and shiny brown hair and eyes that open and close. She is beautiful! Of course, today she is worse for the wear of several very hard years of play, but I love her just the same. I still have Linda too - good old Linda ! It's funny. I never named my ballerina doll. She was always just a ballerina, but she and Linda had many a tea party with me ... tea parties that started that Christmas afternoon - real tea and Saltine crackers for my tender tummy.
My playmates and I wore that tea set out, over the course of time, with many a tea party and make believe play sessions. I still remember the blue and white willow pattern though. Looking at these photos this evening, I think it's funny. Linda was the doll that was with me at that first tea party. She was invited to sit with me even over my new ballerina friend.. See her beside me in the chair? Some friends just stick with you through thick and thin ... and the old friends are always the most treasured.
Merry Christmas, my friends! May you have your share of fun Christmas memories this evening. And may you make many more wonderful memories during this holiday season!