Friday, December 17, 2004

The Right Doll Makes All the Difference

Weekend Assignment #39: Tell us about the toy you had to have for the holidays when you were a kid, only to find out it was kinda disappointing once you had it.

Extra Credit: Tell us the most unrealistic holiday gift request you ever made.

Again this week, I can't quite comply with the assignment.  I can't remember a single case in which I lobbied for a Christmas present, got what I asked for, and didn't enjoy it once I had it.  However, there were a number of times when I didn't get what I wanted, and was disappointed, and other times when I got what I wanted and was very happy about it for quite some time afterward. And isn't that latter case how it's supposed to work?

Having grown up during the Great Depression, my mom was, it must be said, a bit of a cheapskate. Until I was old enough to buy my own movie tickets, the only films I ever saw were in school, on tv, or at the drive-in, which was cheaper than taking a family of four to a movie theater. The only exceptions were a matinee showing of the first re-release of Gone With the Wind, and a showing of Bambi
I'm not quite sure about Bambi.  Disney movies normally never made it to the drive-ins, so I never got to see them. But I definitely saw Bambi.  Did I really see it at Dewitt Drive-In, or did my mom break down and take me to the Kallet Shoppingtown Theater?

me in 1965Well, anyway.

When I asked for stuff for Christmas or a birthday or Halloween, there was a good chance that I would get something else that wasn't quite right, either because the substituted item was less expensive or because Mom thought it more suitable for a girl my age. She especially avoided buying anything tomboyish.  I never did get that cap gun I wanted.

If I asked for            I got                        
a cowboy outfit           a cowgirl outfit, with a skirt
                          that was too small for me

a Barbie                  a "Peggy" with hollow legs and
                          less detail, in a slightly bigger
                          scale than Mattel dolls

a Creepy Crawlers         a Thingmaker with molds for not-
Thingmaker                quite-trolls pencil toppers   
Chatty Cathy              a Chatty Baby, which spoke

gaa gaa goo goo
Right:  Two Chatty Baby dolls, neither of which is the doll I had in 1965.  I bought both in an antique shop because I couldn't remember my original doll's hair color.  Only one of these has a working voicebox. I'm still hard-pressed to understand a word of the "baby talk."  Although the hair is coarse and ragged on each of these dolls, they don't usually look quite this disturbing. Chatty Baby did become my favorite doll for a while, but Chatty Cathy would have been better.

There were times when I got exactly what I asked for,  and was thrilled.  In 1967 I got Francie's friend Casey. I got a Talking Stacey doll in 1968. "Hello!  I'm called Stacey!" she said in her English accent, and I was delighted.  True, she didn't have many interesting things to say, but she was pretty, and English, and Mattel.  I didn't have to be ashamed any more that I didn't have a peer for Cindy's and Lori's Barbies.  I already had Tutti, but as a little sister she didn't quite count. (Casey was also a little younger than Barbie and Midge and Stacey and their boyfriends.)  I also had a Straight-Leg Bubble Cut Barbie, which I had somehow gotten from Cindy.  I have no idea what I traded away to get this doll, but I have no recollection of regretting it much. Again, as an outdated, non-bendable Barbie, the doll wasn't quite up to snuff, but it was still a lot better than Peggy.

Talking Stacey wasn't the only example of a completely successful gift. One day after work my dad brought me an early Liddle Kiddle called Bunson Bernie. I never had a moment's dissatisfaction with Bernie--except, perhaps, to the extent that I would have liked to get Calamity Jiddle too.  The Easy Bake Oven I got one Christmas was also a big hit with me, for a very long time.  I'm not saying I was a paragon of gratitude, or that my life would have been better had I gotten everything I wanted.  But by and large, I was never disappointed after Christmas if I just got what I asked for!

Occasionally, my parents came up with something that I didn't ask for, but did enjoy. The Flintstones Building Blocks were a prime example.  I didn't know these existed until I had them. They were like giant Styrofoam Legos, perhaps five or six inches long, with blue flecks in the white foam. I built small igloos and Frankenstein monsters roughly my height with this set.

"I think tea parties are smashing!" - StaceyLeft to right: A bubble cut straight-leg Barbie, a knock-off similar to Peggy, and Talking Stacey.  No, these aren't the same dolls I had way back when. Right after I took this picture, Stacey's leg fell off.  This Stacey has a reconditioned voicebox that usually works.

The one time I remember getting exactly what I asked for and being disappointed was with Sixfinger.  This was not a Christmas present.  Mom bought it outright for me, more or less on request.  It was supposed to be a fake finger that shot darts and things, sort of a spy weapon. The problem was that the hard plastic, "flesh"-colored finger was ridiculously fake-looking, and smaller than my real fingers.  Still, we did play with it for a while. 

The least successful Christmas gift that was actually what I asked for was probably Baby First Step. The doll's motor was loud, and the walking wasn't exactly a run around the block. Even so, I liked it much better than Chatty Baby.  I may even have kept the doll for a while after the motor stopped working.  I know I kept it after the panel for the batteries came off.

My most unreasonable Christmas request was also an unselfish one.  For years, my dad used to say that what he wanted for Christmas was "a white Cadillac with red-leather seats."  Under the influence of a poem Mrs. Livingston read us in first grade, in which a child asks Santa for gifts for everyone but herself, I asked Santa for Dad's Cadillac.  A couple of times in later years I gave him toy cars as a joke substitute for the real thing.  Incidentally, when I tried to emulate the girl in the poem, my mom had to talk me out of my altruism, at least a little bit. She was counting on that letter to Santa to tell her what I wanted for myself, not what I thought Santa should give Mom and Dad and Steve.



ryanagi said...

Great entry! LOL "Peggy" and other dolls of her ilk were such a frustration to me. None of my friends' cool Barbie clothes would fit my pseudo-Barbie. I had two or three outfits where they had dozens. I was so happy when Santa started bringing me REAL Barbies. :-)

ondinemonet said...

Hi Karen :)

What a great entry! Oh my even more memories have come back for me as I read your entry. I remember playing with those dolls as a child. You write the best entries, I like visiting here because you open up so many doors for trivia and nostalgia from my childhood. I am a big fan of nostalgia, it's so relaxing at times to remember those days and to remember the slower pace and the MUCH easier way of life, even if just for a bit! Cool entry!

Always, Carly :)

yogakosmo said...

I love the way you put this entry together!  Very clever--dividing up "what I asked for" and "what I got" into two columns.   Now, I could certainly come up with a lot more scenarios if I looked at the question in this way!   To this day, I still go through this, only now with my husband...he means well, really, he does...but I can't tell you how many times he buys me stuff that I a) either already have or b) I wanted as a gift, but maybe 5 or 6 years earlier!  Geesh...why does it have to be so complicated?

Take care,

onemoretina said...

I got a huge kick out of reading your entry .  Remember this jingle ?? ......
       MAN ALIVE !!
       GET ALONG WITH FIVE  ?? "

I remembered this one, because my husband always tells me how he asked for it, and his Mother's response was :   " NO  ....... that's disgusting " !!

I sure remember Chatty Cathy.  It was THE doll to have that Christmas way back when.  Did you ever notice how that doll looks just like that German model, Claudia Schiffer ?? .......  Just something weird I noticed !!

                              HAPPY HOLIDAYS !!!!!!!