By Esther Gordon
I knew that Christmas came when the snow was deep on the ground, but we didn't celebrate Christmas at our house because my parents were orthodox Jews who had immigrated from Russia.
It was just such a Christmas morning, while still in my nightgown, I sat on the floor, at my favorite spot, looking out the window at the sparkly-white, lacy, snow that had settled on trees and the ground overnight. When I got bored doing that, I went into the living room, there sitting on the floor in front of our artificial fireplace, was a doll leaning against a green fabric-covered trunk made especially for doll clothes. I asked myself; "Who is she for? Why is she here?" I cautiously walked around it and went over and picked her up. She was a small beautiful doll with yellow hair, a pink flowered dress with a little bow that had long streamers at her neck. Painted on her feet were black shiny Mary Jane shoes. Her blue eyes were painted on and she had a sweet little upturned red mouth painted to look like it was just open a fraction. I turned the doll over and to my infinite delight, dolly was wearing tiny white underpants that had delicate lace around each leg. The body from the waist up was made of a gray coarse cotton material stuffed with something to make it hard. This ugly cloth in no way detracted from her delicate beauty.
When I opened the trunk I saw the hinges that held the top on. They were made of brass-colored metal and were tiny. There was delicate scrolling on the hinges and were beautifully curved. There was a little drawer that had a tiny handle on it to put dolly's things in. I stood looking at it for a very long time. No one said anything to me about it so I guessed it was for me since I was the only little girl in the family. I played with it for a while, expecting someone to come and take it away saying " What are you doing with this doll? This isn't for you." I continued to wonder why it was there. Did it mean we were celebrating Christmas?" I knew that was impossible. We were Jewish.
I played with the doll all day long. Later that day my mother gave me scraps of printed percale fabric. I made my beautiful doll one thousand dresses in her lifetime. I never gave her a name because I was never sure she belonged to me, but I continued to wonder.
Was it our neighbor, a gigantic woman who always wore a stiff house dress with big flowers on it, who brought it over for me?. When she came to visit, carried a plate of wonderful German sugared pastries for us, and she would always bend down and sweetly whisper some German words in my ear.
Was it one of my worldly older brothers or sisters, who knew all about Santa Claus and Christmas presents, because they worked or went to school? Did they decide to give me a Christmas present? Or was it my mother who thought that a Christmas present would make me more "American".
To this day I don't know where she came from; I never asked or someone never told me who my benefactor was, but not knowing never made me love my beautiful nameless doll any less.
When I tell this story, people sometimes ask me if I still have the doll. I answer
"when the snow is falling hard and it is lacy and heavy on the trees, When
I am busy shining the old Menorah for Chanukah, my beautiful doll comes to visit
me in my heart.
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