One of my best Christmas memories has to do with my sister, Betty. Betty was four years older than me. It was just the two of us, but that age difference was just enough to make us not all that interested in each other. She was always outgrowing the new things I was just getting into.
But when we were younger, for a very brief time, we loved the same things: Barbie dolls. Granted, she had the Barbie first apartment with the hi-fi and cardboard bed and wardrobe, while my doll’s limited wardrobe was kept in a paper bag, but that didn’t matter to me. I could talk about Barbies with my big sister!
When Christmas time came around, I was excited. I was allowed to buy my own gift for my sister, this year. Mom gave me $2.00. I was only 6, so this was a huge step for me.
Mom took us down to the discount store and left me in my sister’s care, while she went to get something at another store. When I was little, this was a perfectly normal thing to do. We played outside until dark with the rest of the kids on the block, then went home for dinner. Doors were left unlocked and the neighbors all watched out for each other.
As we walked around the store though, I was stumped. I mean how could I buy my sister’s present when she was stuck like glue to my side?
She looked a little annoyed, too. I wasn’t sure why she was upset, but I was really relieved when she suggested we take turns inside the store.
“I don’t want you seeing what I’m getting for Mom,” she said. “You’ll blab!”
“I won’t!” I said. “But I don’t want you seeing what I’m getting either, so it’s okay, we can take turns.”
“Alright, but you have to wait by the front door until I get back, then we can swap places, okay?”
“Okay.” So I stood there waiting. She seemed to take forever! I knew what I wanted to buy and I was so worried it would be gone before I could get it.
Finally, she came back with a large bag tucked halfway behind her.
“What did you get?” I asked. I couldn’t help myself, I really wanted to know what she had gotten Mom. We were making handprint plaques in class and that was what I was giving Mom and Dad. Betty was probably getting her perfume or something much better, so I was a little jealous.
“None of your business!” She shouted. “Now hurry up. We have to meet Mom soon.”
I ran into the store and down the Barbie aisle. There was a spot where they had these really fancy looking books of paper dolls. I really loved the different outfits, some of which Betty actually had, but never let me touch. I thought that since they were so special to her, if she had paper doll versions, she might actually play with them instead of keeping them all tucked away in the Barbie wardrobe. I got to the spot where I had seen the book, and for a moment I was really upset, I couldn’t find it.
“Oh no!” I thought. “It can’t be gone!” There had been two, so I was sure at least one would be left.
Finally though, I saw it. It was tucked out of sight, behind another book of paper dolls. I grabbed and went to the counter with my money.
“That will be $1.25, young lady.”
I counted out my money and handed it carefully to the cashier. “May I have a big bag? I don’t want my sister to see what this is!”
“Sure.” She said. “That’s funny, I just had another little girl ask me the same thing.”
I thanked the lady and met Betty outside. The whole way home we both kept trying to glance at each other’s bags to try to figure out what was inside.
It was a fun Christmas that year. Betty and I played games together by the tree. We made up this one game where we took turns picking an ornament off the tree. The other person had to try and guess which ornament we moved. We had to be very careful though and not touch Grandma’s glass pine cone ornaments, which were very special and very fragile.
We made Spritz cookies with Mom and strung popcorn with Dad. Each day leading up to Christmas was filled with something fun.
Finally, Christmas Eve was here, and we got tucked into bed. I couldn’t sleep. I was starting to worry about whether or not Betty would really like my present, or if she would think it was just a silly kid thing.
Santa was really good to us that year. I got a big girl bike (with training wheels) and my sister got the radio she wanted and some ice skates.
Mom and Dad really liked my handprint plaque, and put on the dresser in their room. But, I was still nervous about Betty’s present.
We gave each other our presents last. Funny thing was, they were the same shape and the same size. We looked at our gifts and looked at each other. I opened mine first.
There, in my hands was the Barbie Doll paper doll book. The exact same one I just gave my sister. I turned around and stared at her.
“Well this one had that outfit of mine that you are always trying to put one your doll. I thought you might like this,” She said
“Open yours,” I said, as she ripped off the wrapping. “ And I thought you could play with this paper dress, since you don’t want to spoil your real one”
For that one moment in time, albeit briefly, and then not again for years later, we were in sync.
We were sisters, and it was special.