Saturday, December 15, 2012

the ugly doll

we went over the top this year with our Christmas tree. literally. our new house has nine-and-a-half-foot ceilings, so we figured we'd maximize that glory and go big! we ended up going a bit too big and hacked off about three feet of the trunk to make it fit. she is a beauty, though.

the place where we bought the tree had a "gift shop" of mostly second-hand goods and other things the owner has found at wholesale for resale. we let the girls each pick something from the 25-cent box. Little One picked out a miniature horse on wheels. we found a lovely giraffe collectible for a friend's daughter's first Christmas. and Sweet One picked out an older doll from some timeworn dollhouse set.

wait a minute. what? the girl who is pining for a Yellow-Dressed Barbie Doll With Yellow Birthstone Jewelry New In Package On Sale But Sold Out is passing up shiny trinkets for this ugly doll? it's the kind of doll even a Goodwill shopper passes up.

i take a closer look at this thing to see what i'm missing. it's a grandmotherly doll whose white hair is Einstein-like (if Einstein had grown his hair even longer, that is). the paint is flaking off her white pumps, and she could use a facial. there are green paint splotches on her body and dress. the outfit is dowdy and falling apart. she looks tired, worn, and unwanted. yet our daughter wanted her more than anything else in that box. she loves the thing. this ugly little doll is already the center of many stories (she is currently taking a nap in the wardrobe with a quarter).

i get so caught up this time of year with coveting what i don't have — even if i don't particularly want it. this extends especially to my kids. i want to buy them everything they could ever want, even if i'm not a huge fan (we are up to our eyeballs in princesses, y'all). we typically don't buy the girls much for Christmas anyway. so many relatives are generous enough, and quite frankly it's not in the budget to do much more than a book, CD and a few added dollar-store craft items. but i waste time every Sunday morning paging mindlessly through all the toy catalogs anyway. it reminds me of being a kid, circling everything i wanted in the advertisements to give my parents. (nowadays, of course, we just click to add it to the wish list on Amazon.) i knew even as a kid that it was ridiculous to want or expect some of those toys.

i've been reminded in more ways than one recently that simpler is better, that the mundane can be extravagant, that imagination is golden. my kids ask for things for the same reasons i want to buy them: because of those glossy advertisements and packaging that make everything seem so shiny and desirable (we're like raccoons, seriously). then i see how excited the girls get over a cardboard box, over cushy star ornaments from the '80s, over draping ourselves in sheets and falling to the ground like melting snowmen...

our tree is a bit sparse at the bottom. not in branches, but ornaments. Little One has commandeered all the stuffed fabric stars for carrying around in a basket and throwing across the room at random intervals. she's also prohibited all "candy cones" from the branches — these are the property of her basket as well. Sweet One has enlisted the help of all the angels she can reach in her stories. the Martha Stewart-brand bows i carefully staggered are crunched and invariably not where i left them.

it is, of course, the most gorgeous tree we've had yet.

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