Wednesday, December 8, 1999

The China Doll

Christmas at Granny Devine’s house was a magical time for me when I was a child. Our close knit family always gathered in her tiny home to celebrate the wonderful holiday season. This was the time that I looked forward to all year long.

Granny’s house was very tiny, only two bedroom, a kitchen and a living room. Sometimes we felt like sardines packed into crowded quarters, but no one seemed to mind. The adults situated themselves on the couch while the children gathered around on the floor. The house was so quaint and cozy that I always felt like I could stay there forever. Fluffy pillow adorned the couch, along with numerous hand crocheted Afghans. On the plain cherry table lay a cherished black Bible, its edges bent and worn from loving use. Beloved photos of numerous children and grandchildren peered down from the plaster walls.

Before artificial trees became widely used, Granny always had a real Christmas tree. I can still remember the fresh, green Norfolk pin tree standing in the corner, its branches smelling like the great outdoors. The needles always tickled my nose when I brushed close to them. Each branch was decorated with the festive wear of the holiday season; red, blue, green and yellow lights sparkling. Hand crafted ornaments loaded the tree…crocheted angels, beadwork orbs, and quilted squares. Glittering tinsel swayed with the gentle movement of everyone inside the house.

Ding-dong, ding-dong, dong-ding-dong-ding…the faithful wall clock announced the dinner hour. Everyone stepped across the creaky floor furnace to enter the teeny kitchen. The enticing aroma of the golden, glazed turkey reached our noses. The whirring of the mixer sounded as the dreamy mashed potatoes were fluffed with mounds of golden butter. Caramelized marshmallows topped the delectable candied yams, and the mouth-watering fruit cried out from the ambrosia salad. Oysters sizzled in their sauce of butter, milk and cracker crumbs as Granny took them out of her old gas oven. The oysters were my favorite part of the meal, and my own mother still fixes them just for me every year. The sweet fragrance of Granny’s homemade stuffing wafted through the entire house…yummy! There will never be another food that signals the beginning the holiday like Granny’s stuffing.

A handmade, Christmas cross-stitched tablecloth always covered the wooden table. Four chair and two stools were settled around the table for the adults to eat from, and the children were relegated to the living room coffee table. I can still remember the sharp corners of that table when I would accidentally run into them. After everyone was settle and a prayer of thanks given, the great passage of food platt34ers began. Clink, clatter, clink…each person heaped their plate to overflowing.

At the conclusion of the scrumptious meal the men r3etired to the living room and the great clean up began. The anticipation of opening the vast number of Christmas presents was overwhelming to us kids, but it was tradition to wait until the dishes were done before the first gift could be opened finally; Granny, Aunt Ginny Ann and my Mom finished the dishes and joined the rest of us in the living room.

My most memorable Christmas at my Granny’s began with my Aunt handing out presents to me and my brother and sister I was around eight or nine years old and I couldn’t wait to tear into my package, but as usual, we had to wait until everyone had a present before we could open anything. Ready, set, go…away we went, ripping the paper and ribbons. I loved all my presents, but this year held a delightful surprise. Granny had given me a china doll…my very first china doll. She was so beautiful with black hair on top of her creamy porcelain face. She had blue eyes, just like mine, and pink rosy cheeks. Her dress was pink with tiny white polka dots and she had a matching bonnet on her head. She even had a crinoline skirt and petticoat underneath her dress. I was ecstatic! It was such a grown up present and I was so happy that my Granny thought I was old enough to have my first china doll.

When the present were all finally opened and the wrapping and ribbons cleaned up, the kids watched television while the adults talked. This particular year, I took a long hot bubble bath in Granny’s miniature bathroom and changed into the new pajamas my Aunt had given me. I was all ready to go home to bed so I could wait for Old Saint Nick.

That was 1970 or 71, but I can still remember the excitement of that Christmas Eve. Rushing my parents home so I could jump into bed, listening to every creak of the house, just know that Santa would arrive at any minute. As for my china doll, Miss Betsy, she is still one of most treasured possessions. She holds a place of honor in my glass cabinet where I can glance at her every day. All three of my daughters have several china dolls apiece, but they don’t care for dolls as much as I do. My dolls are a significant part of my heritage and, although I have had many china dolls since Miss Betsy, none will ever remind me of Christmas, or my Granny Devine, like this one special doll.

© Bobbi Rightmyer, December 1999