Throwback Thursday

I don’t plan on doing this every week, like “Fiction Fridays” or “Weird Wednesdays,” but I thought it might be fun to do a “Throwback Thursday,” writer’s style. So here goes…

Twinkling Christmas Lights

“I know what that is!” Joshua said as he watched Mom and Dad lugging the oversized box in its brown paper wrapper toward the hallway. Mary Beth and I exchanged furtive glances. We should have known he would rat us out. “No you don’t,” Mom said. “Yes, I do,” Joshua insisted. “It’s a Barbie Doll Townhouse!” His brown eyes gleamed as he smiled his toothless grin. “How do you know that?” “Katie showed me!” Of course it had been a mistake to show Joshua. And we had been so careful to unwrap along the seam, and tape it back just like they found it… We were always careful when we went snooping. “How did you know about it?” Mom asked, turning to me. “We found it. When we were looking for the flashlight in the workshop.” “Who told you you could peek inside?” “Nobody,” I said, avoiding her eyes. I didn’t want to see the quiver that I was hearing in her voice. I could feel Mary Beth’s glare from across the room. “Did you know about this?” She had turned to Mary Beth. While we were good at sneaking, neither of us had mastered lying under direct confrontation. “Yes,” she said in a little voice. We were both as big as our mother at this point, but still cringed when her voice had that edge.

Girl in Christmas dress looking down at gift
Not actually me…

We were interrogated separately, and if we left out any of the gifts we’d discovered, I don’t remember. The porcelain doll from Gatlinburg, Tennessee that my mother had bought over the summer and stashed under her dresser… The Beauty Secrets Barbie and matching Ken doll that I coveted, even though I was past the age when most of my friends played with dolls… The stuffed dogs that would become part of the collection, used to reenact my favorite book at the time, The Hundred and One Dalmations… (Oddly enough, I don’t think I had a single stuffed dalmation, but when I played, they were Pongo, Misses, and all the puppies and supporting cast of the story.) Oh, we had searched through every dresser drawer and every spot on the closet floor like the little sneaks that we were. The fun was in the discovery, and in not getting caught. Each gift had been carefully placed in its original spot, down to the centimeter, wrapped as neatly as we found it, our parents clueless until Joshua blurted out our great secret. We had long solved the mystery of Santa Claus by observing not only that Santa’s handwriting looked suspiciously like our mother’s, but also in noticing the alarm set for the wee hours of the morning the Saturday night before Easter a few years earlier. And we had snooped through a great many other things my parents wouldn’t have wished us to see. And we felt so very clever, right up until that moment when our mother started crying because she wanted to surprise us on Christmas morning. It was Christmas Eve. Before the Barbie Townhouse, in all its multi-storied glory, Mary Beth and I had created homes for our dolls using the furniture in the house. A chair was a two story house – one on the seat, the other below, filled with furniture crafted from sponges covered in fabric. The dolls were often dressed in gowns fashioned from baby doll dresses resized with hair bands, or creatively used tissues in a pinch. Thousands of stories wound their way through the dolls lives, as we created our own soap operas. I can still hear echoes of my father complaining to my mother that we had our dolls in “compromising positions.” But that Christmas, the guilt of making my mother cry almost canceled out the excitement over the new, furnished townhouse. Almost. My mother went out that evening to one of the few stores open and purchased a hair dryer, because she wanted to surprise me with something. She was also mad because she didn’t want to ruin Santa for Joshua. He probably already knew. We were the kind of kids who figured those kinds of things out pretty early on. Christmas lights and ornaments on a tree, close up Within a couple of years, that Barbie townhouse would be moved to my grandparents’ house in Tampa, where we would play with it on long, hot summer days and during occasional holiday visits. Mary Beth and I would both find our outlets in theater, writing, music and art as we grew older. I still have a devious mind, but I’m still a bad liar.


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