by Caroline Moss
The year was 1994, and it must have been, oh, I don’t know, October? I was 7 or 8?
My Grandma and my mom had taken me to a toy store, probably to kill time or to buy a friend’s birthday gift and my eyes landed upon what we will now refer to as the Sacajawea doll, a beautiful moderately-sized collector’s item modeled after the Native American woman who led Lewis and Clark on their Western expedition. I assume you all remember 4th grade.
Anyway, the doll was incredibly gorgeous, more gorgeous than any other doll I owned (variations of plastic dolls that ate fake food and then fake shit themselves, dolls that could hold onto ballet barres and do pirouettes, a multitude of Barbies that aspired to be doctors, movie stars, stay at home mommys) and I had to have this Sacajawea doll. I wasn’t even a doll person, but I was a materialistic child, and when I wanted something I went into full lawyer mode, convincing the judge, often spectacularly played by my mother, that I could not live, no, I could not breathe, without this doll.
I launched into my usual schpiel: I need this (why do you need this?) I just need it! (I should have gone to law school.)
“Why don’t you ask Santa for it for Christmas?” My grandma suggested.
“Good idea!” which was mom-speak for enough, Caroline. I knew at least that much.
So for two months I wrote letters and follow-up letters to Santa. (REMEMBER, I’d write, THE SACAJAWEA DOLL! THE ONE WITH THE LONG HAIR AND THE SUADE SKIRT AND THE GOLD COIN NECKLACE! NOT THE ONE WITH) and then I’d launch into a description of all of the other dolls available that I did NOT want him to get me. By letter four I was certain Santa had heard my plea.
I was confident.
We’ll call December 22nd the day that everything changed. My saint of an Aunt, we’ll call her Gael, because that’s her name, gave me a copy of the American Girl catalog after I had seen my cousin Caitlin, 9 at the time, thumbing through her copy at Thanksgiving. The catalog came on, you guessed it, December 22nd. Three days before Christmas.
And that’s when I saw her. Molly. Molly with the braids and the glasses and the accessories. Molly, $89. MOLLY, $120 if you threw in the desk and pencils she sat at and wrote with. Molly McIntire.
The American Girl Doll of my dreams.
I had to have her.
Dear Santa, I wrote, I changed my mind. Disregard my other letters. I want Molly McIntire, the American Girl Doll.
This was Santa we were talking about! He performed miracles. This was worthy of miracle, IMO.
My Jewish father, already somewhat removed from the holiday tradition of pretending an old man would careen down our chimney and bring his gentile children whatever they wanted for the sake of celebrating the birth of a baby who was conceived without sex, tried to give me a pep talk about like, I don’t know, cut off dates for requests to Santa? And I was like, no offense dad but you’re jewish and I don’t think you really get it.
And he was like, fine.
On Christmas eve, I stayed up all night praying to Santa. Three hours into my prayer I thought I needed to do more. I found my American Girl Doll catalog and made a quick decision. I cut out all of the photos of Molly and the accessories she came with that I wanted and taped them to the window so Santa would see.
I was confident.
When I was allowed to exit my room on Christmas morning (Moss family tradition once stated all kids must stay in their rooms until given the green light to exit, this was usually around 6am until my youngest sister turned into a teenager and slept until 11) I ran into the living room, excited.
I was confident.
For the sake of time, I’ll tell you what you already know: I got the Sacajawea doll, not the Molly doll, and I cried, and then my parents sat me down alone, out of the earshot of my siblings, and told me that there was no Santa, that THEY were Santa, and did I feel guilty yet?
The story remains something of a legendary tale, a “Caroline” story if there ever was one, my parents say, and the Sacajawea doll comes out every Christmas, like a decoration that makes no sense, to remind all of us that the true meaning of Christmas really lies in knowing what you want jolly old saint nick to bring you, and knowing the absolute latest date for letter submissions to the north pole.