Gramma Kathy, my little sister Julie, my brother Danny, and me, circa 1955

The older we get, sometimes the more nostalgic special occasions become. This is especially so with me at Christmas. My Gramma Kathy was widowed in her 30s and spent the rest of her life working two jobs – and doting on her 13 grandchildren. She loved dolls, and many times, a Madame Alexander doll joined our household during my childhood years. My mother, me and my two sisters all received dolls at various times from Gram. It was a tradition that we loved and looked forward to getting, especially to see the look on Gram’s face when we oohed and awed over the gifts.

This year, Dave and I planned to spend Christmas for the first time with my Floridians: my daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren. I did due diligence as far as that oh-so-necessary Rules Grandparents Can Disobey manual and bought plenty of gifts for my two grands, Tristan (8) and Clover (5). Then it hit me: What a perfect time to pass on an heirloom Madame Alexander  “Pussy Cat” baby doll with eyes that open and close from my Gram. I wanted to see the look of joy on Clover’s face and capture the moment when I passed on a beloved treasure. Oh, boy! This was going to be great!

I even had an heirloom for Tristan. He was getting my beautiful antique snow-globe Gramma had given me. He’d spent a winter in Iowa when he was tiny, and although he probably will never live near snow again, I knew he loved snow-globes.

I told both Tristan and Clover that of all the presents we’d driven down with from Iowa, I would let them open one special gift on Christmas Eve – and that these were gifts originally from their great-great-grandmother. I even told them both that they better make room for all the new toys they’d be getting from us and from Santa.

My very independent and funny five year old Clover told me quite seriously, “I can’t get wid of ANY of my babies, MoMo. They need me!”

Oh, wow!  I was sure Great-Great-Gramma Kathy was looking down from heaven and smiling in delight. Baby Pussy Cat was definitely going to be loved and treasured. GREAT job, Bec, I told myself.

I gave Clover a hug and told her she could keep all her toys and dollies. She drew back from me, looked me straight in the eye, curled one lip in a snarl that would make a lion whimper and said, “MoMo! I just have toys. I don’t like dolls. Dolls are creepy!”

I continued smiling for exactly half a second. Wait! What? CREEPY! Creepy? Oh, no! I shot a panicked look at my daughter, who knew what I was giving Clover, but had thought she might like it. Alyssa just shrugged.

“Oh, honey! Dolls aren’t creepy! They’re fun to play with and lots of dolls just want to be loved and taken care of.” A hint of desperation appeared in my voice. Clover looked at me skeptically, then back at her i-pad.

“Hey!” I said, to get her attention. “Your mommy and Auntie Brooke both had dollies they loved when they were your age,” I wheedled. As soon as I said that, though, I remembered it was Alyssa, who the afternoon before Christmas when she was three or four in the 1980s, announced that Santa was bringing her a pound puppy. We’d bought her a Cabbage Patch doll like her older sister had. My husband Harold made a frantic run to Walgreens and got one of the last few pound puppies that was left. Maybe this anti-doll thing was genetic.

Well, it was too late to do anything about it. And who knows? As soon as Clover sees that sweet little face, she might fall in love, I thought. So we proceeded with the opening of the heirloom gifts. Tristan opened his snow-globe first. I couldn’t have scripted a better reaction. He squealed with delight, shouted out thanks and that he LOVED it, and began to play carefully with it.

Clover was next. Tristan’s excitement was contagious, and she wriggled in anticipation and kept asking “What is it? What is it, MoMo?”  Plus her box was way BIGGER than his, so when it was her turn to open it, she ripped through the wrapping paper like a Florida hurricane tearing through a newspaper stand. Paper flew everywhere. She frantically tugged at the tightly tied ribbon until I took pity on her and cut it off. Then came the moment to lift the lid. Pretty pink tissue paper – Clover’s favorite color of the moment – covered up the doll.

She looked up at me with wonder and proceeded to carefully pull the paper up, grinning in anticipation, while the adults all held their breaths. One tissue was carefully off, then the one covering the doll was pulled up, and…

Clover took one look – No, make that a millisecond glance – at poor little baby Pussy Cat, her grin disappeared, and she quickly covered it back up with the paper, slammed the box lid back on and scooted away from the box. I might as well have gift-wrapped a snake for the reaction I got. “I don’t like it,” she said, with conviction.

I felt my body sag with disappointment and shame. Oh, how could I not have known my own precious grandchild didn’t like dolls? But I’d been too wrapped up in my own Christmas memories to have taken the time and make the effort to simply ask if that heirloom would be a good gift.

“Oh, Honey! I’m so sorry,” I, the grandmother version of the Grinch, apologized. I felt the burning sting of tears start to form.

But my amazing little sweetheart just looked up at me, and with big brown beautiful eyes said, “It’s okay, MoMo. I still love you!” She glanced toward the box. “Maybe you can give it to the cousins.” Everyone burst into laughter, including me.

At least the next morning, she did like the other presents I bought. And she really loved some that Santa bought her: DOLLS. Elsa and Anna dolls from Frozen.

My jaw dropped and I started to protest, “Hey!” But Clover (I did say she was smart, didn’t I?) looked at me, and like a very patient parent explaining the most obvious fact in the world to a petulant child told me she likes MOVIE dolls (Elsa and Anna), just not regular dolls.

So now I know.

Hmmm…Three grands’ birthdays are in May. Better start making notes.

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