As a child, Christmas Eve in our house was the best day of the whole year. Santa delivered gifts to our home on this day. It seems like I received a doll every Christmas. I always loved dolls. Even when I was twelve years old I still had dreams of receiving a doll for Christmas.
My daddy worked on Christmas Eve day. He received his yearly bonus at the end of this work day. We couldn’t wait for him to get home so Santa would come, and we could open gifts. The tree was always loaded with gifts for our large family.
Daddy did his shopping for my mom on Christmas Eve, after he received his yearly bonus check. He also celebrated with a little Christmas cheer before he came home to his excited family. When Daddy finally arrived home, it was time to open gifts.
We all settled into a comfy place in the living room. Daddy sat on the floor next to the tree and would hand-out one gift at a time to one of our family members. He loved Christmas. We watched as each gift was opened. Each child tried to be patient and wait for the next time a gift was handed to him or her.
The Christmas of 1955 was one that will stand-out in my memory for as long as I live. I dreamed of receiving a Madam Alexander doll named Cissy. I spotted her in Bruner’s Department store on a high shelf one Friday evening as my mom and dad shopped for groceries in a connecting store. My little brother and I would look at the toys in the department store, and Mom and Daddy joined us after they bought the weekly groceries.
I showed the doll to my mom and dad on a whim; never really expecting to find her under our Christmas tree. Cissy, released in 1955, was the first of the modern fashion dolls. What set Cissy apart as something new and different was her mature figure with high-heeled feet. She was an expensive doll at the time and certainly not in my parents’ budget.
Each Friday night through December my little brother and I would look at the toys in Bruner’s while my mom and dad did the weekly grocery shopping. The Friday before Christmas Eve, Cissy was no longer on the shelf. My heart sunk. Could it be possible my mom and dad bought her for me? I couldn’t allow myself to think of such extravagance.
Christmas Eve finally came. We all were waiting Daddy’s arrival home so we could open our Christmas gifts Santa left. As we settled around the tree, I noticed the pair of little red high heel shoes from Cissy hanging on the tree. I was beside myself with excitement. I couldn’t sit still.
Near the end of our gift opening, Daddy asked me what I was so excited about on the tree. He was grinning from ear to ear. I told him it was the pair of shoes belonging to Cissy. He looked at them and said there was a note that went along with them. Daddy had made a map I had to follow to find her in the house. One clue led to another until I finally came to the most glorious doll you will ever see. I think it was my happiest moment to date.
I still have Cissy and her original hat. Somewhere along the way, after many years, I no longer had her shoes or dress. I thought about those shoes so often over the years and wished I had them. Amazingly, I came across another Cissy in an antique shop 12 years ago. She still had her original dress and shoes. However, she had dark hair rather than blond like my Cissy. She was in a locked, glass case with other vintage dolls. I looked at her shoes longingly as I had done many years ago when I was 12 years old.
I asked the shop owner if I could buy just her shoes. Silly me. She said no. I told her my story, but she still said no. I couldn’t leave the store without those shoes. So I bought the doll for many times more than my parents had paid for my original Cissy. The elastic on the shoes was stretched-out with age beyond anything that would stay on my doll. I put the dark-haired Cissy dress on my blond Cissy and some hand-made clothes on the recently purchased Cissy. The shoes I put aside.
When the following Christmas came around I showed the shoes to my oldest granddaughter, Madison, and told her the story. She was seven years old at the time. I told her I would hang the shoes on our family tree every Christmas from now on to remember such a happy time. I asked her if she would take-over the tradition when I was gone so the red shoes story would live on and the shoes would always grace a family Christmas tree.
When my husband and I decorate for Christmas each year now, he leaves the little red shoes for me to hang on the tree in the area I remember them hanging on my family tree when I was twelve years old. Such happy memories of my father and our family return to me for a few quiet moments of my own. This is one of the best memories of my childhood. I will love this Christmas Eve story for the rest of my life.
I wrote this memory to be included in a book that will come out this fall called Christmas Quilts, Christmas Memories. The book, compiled by Karey Bresenhan and Nancy Puentes, will be accompanied by a special exhibit of quilts featured in the book at International Quilt Festival in Houston this fall. The exhibit will also be seen at Festival in Chicago in 2017.
I hope you have a special memory today to make you smile. Love to you, Judy