{September 13, 2012}   Baby Doll

Sometimes on Saturday nights, I would go with my family to the Scott’s house to cook out. The Scotts were friends of Mother and Daddy.  We would have supper and I would play with their daughter, Lee Ann. Lee Ann and I baked cakes in her Easy Bake Oven while the grownups grilled outside. Daddy would stand at the grill and talk with his friend Jay and drink beer. Daddy never drank beer unless he was visiting the Scotts. My brother tried to play with me and Lee Ann, but he was too little. He would watch us mix cake batter until he got tired of it and joined the grownups outside. My mother and Laura talked in the kitchen about the baby Mother was having. Mother said she didn’t care if it was a boy or girl. When the dishes were cleared, the grownups played Rook. That was a game that lasted a long time. We stayed so late the TV played, “The Star Spangled Banner” and signed off. I could hear the grownups talking in the living room. I always fell asleep in Lee Ann’s bed and my brother fell asleep on the rug beside us. Mother would switch the light on to wake me up to go home, but I was too sleepy to walk to the car. Daddy picked me up and laid me in the backseat beside my brother in the cold car. The ride home was bumpy and lights on the expressway got bright and dark, waking me up. I was happy when I finally got in my own bed.

One Saturday night the grownups were playing Rook when my mother said that she needed to go to the hospital. She was going to have a baby right then! Daddy rushed Mother to the car and we sped away to the hospital. Daddy helped Mother into a wheelchair that was waiting outside the hospital. Then, he came back to the car and said that my brother and I had to go to his brother Harold’s to stay the night. It would be okay. He said we could eat pancakes for breakfast and after that he would pick us up.

The next morning, Daddy came to pick up me and my brother. He said that my brother was going to stay with Maw Maw. I was going to spend the night with his sister, Jane. Aunt Jane lived in a big house at the end of a long driveway lined with trees. Her house looked like the spooky house in Sunset Boulevard. Aunt Jane was Daddy’s rich older sister. Daddy said she used to be a nurse and then went into real estate and made a fortune. I liked Aunt Jane. She lived with a nice maid who fixed me a glass of warm milk when I couldn’t sleep. Aunt Jane had a black and white spotted dog named Spot who lived in the house with her. She had two sons, but they were a lot older than me. One cousin was away at prep school. My other cousin, Barrett, still lived at home. Barrett was too old to play with me. He told me that I couldn’t even step into his room. He kept the door closed all the time. That made me wonder what was in there.

As soon as Barrett left his room unguarded, I snuck in there. It was like a house of horror. The windows were dark with heavy drapes. Pinned all over the walls were pictures of topless girls torn out from magazines. Now I knew why Barrett wouldn’t let me in his room. I looked at everything in Barrett’s messy room. On his dresser was a pack of gum with a wrapper I’d never seen before. I wanted a piece of that gum, but I’d better ask Barrett first. He might have counted the pieces. Daddy bought me a pack of Fruit Stripe gum to take to Aunt Jane’s. Maybe Barrett would trade a piece of his gum for mine. Suddenly, the door swung open and Barrett walked in. He caught me red handed!  “You little noodle head! What’re you doing in here?” I said I was looking for gum. Barrett wasn’t too mad, but he told me to get out. I said okay, but would he like to trade a piece of his gum for mine? He asked what kind of gum I had. I showed him my pack of Fruit Stripe. He said, sure, he’ll trade. But he wanted to trade the whole pack, not just one piece. I said okay. I skipped out of Barrett’s room with his strange looking gum. I unwrapped a piece and started chewing. It was horrible! My whole mouth was on fire! I ran to Aunt Jane’s dressing room where she was putting on makeup. I spit out the gum, but my mouth still burned. I was screaming and stomping. Aunt Jane said, “Damn that onion gum!” She took me to the bathroom sink and rinsed out my mouth. She yelled for Barrett. But Barrett didn’t come. Finally, my mouth started feeling back to normal. Aunt Jane warned me not to ever trade with Barrett again. She said Barrett likes to play tricks. She told me to go get ready because we were going to a shopping center that she owned. Aunt Jane owned a shopping center! That meant I could pick out anything I wanted! I skipped away to put a dress on.

Aunt Jane’s shopping center had boring stores like a shoe repair store and a barber shop. But it also had a dime store. We went in the dime store. Aunt Jane told me I could pick out a toy. I went straight to the baby doll aisle. There were so many baby dolls to pick from! I walked up and down the aisle. Finally, I spotted the one I wanted. It was a doll on the highest shelf with a green satin dress, white stockings and a green bonnet. I pulled Aunt Jane over and pointed to the doll. “That one!” I said. Aunt Jane shook her head. “No. That one costs too much. It’s a Madame Alexander doll. You’d just tear that one up. How about this one?” Aunt Jane picked up a doll from a lower shelf.  It was a doll in a flowery gown with a tiny baby bottle. I didn’t want that one. I wanted the doll in the green dress. I thought Aunt Jane owned this whole shopping center! Doesn’t that mean she owns everything in here?  Aunt Jane said no. Just because she owns the shopping center doesn’t mean she can get anything she wants for free. She held up the baby doll in the cellophane box with the gown and bottle. She asked me if I wanted it. I said yes. Aunt Jane told me that when I was older, she would buy me a Madame Alexander doll. I was happy with my new baby doll even though it wasn’t my first choice.  I would take care of her and feed her when I got home.

Daddy came to pick me up from Aunt Jane’s the next day. He said I was going to stay at home with him. I’d never stayed home with Daddy all by myself before. It was great! We made pimento cheese and liverwurst  sandwiches for dinner. For dessert, Daddy crumbled cornbread into milk and we ate it like ice cream. Daddy said it was his favorite dessert. I said it was mine, too. Daddy said tonight we’re going to visit a friend of his in the insurance business. He has a daughter my age and we can play together.

When we got there, Daddy’s friend was on a screened porch drinking a beer. He went to the fridge to get Daddy one. His daughter Rebecca came and said hi to me.  Rebecca had long brown hair and pink glasses. She looked a lot like me only with brown hair instead of blonde. She was holding a dark-skinned baby doll with black curly hair and dark eyes. I didn’t know they made a baby doll that color! We skipped off to Rebecca’s room. It was neater than my bedroom. It had a blue bedspread and ballerina paintings on the wall. I sat on the blue bedspread. Rebecca put a record on the record player. It was a song I heard before, Que Sera, Sera. I looked around Rebecca’s room. There were no dolls to play with except the dark baby doll she was holding. “Can I hold her?” I asked Rebecca. “Sure!” she said. I rocked the baby doll in my arms. I didn’t have a doll like this. I wanted a doll like her to add to my dolls. Rebecca put on another record, Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini. I love that song! I want a teeny weenie polka dot bikini, too! Rebecca said she had one. Rebecca had everything. She didn’t have a brother or sister. She told me she was an only child. I wished I was an only child. Then I could get everything I wanted, too.

On the way home, I told Daddy about Rebecca’s baby doll. “Can I have one like that?” I asked. “Don’t you have enough dolls?” he asked.  “Yeah, but I don’t have one like that.” “I think you have enough toys. You need to be happy with what you’ve got,” Daddy said. “How about for Christmas?” I asked. “We’ll see…”  Daddy said.

The next day, Mother came home from the hospital with my baby sister. I asked Mother if I could hold her. I sat in the green living room chair with my arms cradled and Mother laid my sister in my arms. She looked just like a baby doll. Mother took her and fed her a bottle. I sat in a chair next to Mother and fed my baby doll a bottle. Daddy said my sister had already won a contest. He said she was “the biggest baby in the hospital.” He was very proud of her. I was, too.


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