I believe the year was 1959 or 1960, I was a little girl seven or eight
years old. I was also an avid Shirley Temple fan! I loved her movies, and
her music, and my heart's desire was to own a Shirley Temple doll.
I asked Santa for one for Christmas and prayed for him to be sure the
doll was under the tree on Christmas morning. I can't remember any
other Christmas in my life when a gift was more desired or longed for.
Normally, the Santa presents at our house were laid under the tree
without wrapping sometime late on Christmas Eve when Santa arrived
long after we were in bed and asleep.
My brothers and I would wake up very early, usually around 4:00 a. m.
on Christmas morning, sneak out to the tree and see if our requested
present was there. If the requested gift was reasonable, it was generally
always there. Then we would sneak back to bed until daylight when we
would wake our parents and pretend to be surprised about all the gifts
Santa left. (As if our parents didn't know that we were sneaking around
the house in the wee hours of the morning!)
That Christmas was no different, except when we found our gifts during
our "sneak" there was no Shirley Temple doll for me, only a pair of
plastic high heels, which I thought were very nice and would be a lot of
fun, but my heart was broken--surely Santa hadn't misunderstood? Had
I been a naughty girl? Did Santa make a mistake? Was a Shirley
Temple doll too much to ask for?
I went back to bed and couldn't go back to sleep, I just couldn't believe
Santa wouldn't bring her, and I dropped more than just a couple of
tears on my pillow. Daylight did finally come, and the family gathered
around the tree. The gifts were all opened, and as usual, we all had
some wonderful new items to cherish. I tried very hard to be happy with
what I had, but deep down, I was shattered. It was the first time in my
life Santa had let me down, I was sure it was my fault, he'd
misunderstood, or I hadn't been a good enough girl.
Then, my Mom told me she saw a lump under the tree skirt in the back
of the tree, and asked me if I'd please crawl under it and straighten it for
her. I did exactly that, and when I got there, realized the lump was an
unopened wrapped gift. I pulled it out, and it had no name on it, so Mom
told me just to go ahead and open it so we could figure out who it
belonged to. I couldn't believe my eyes when I started to tear open the
gift wrap---there, in my hands was a box with a picture of Shirley Temple
on it, and when the wrap was gone, inside the box, the very doll I had
so disparately longed for!
Santa hadn't forgotten me, he'd wrapped that special gift and left it for
me after all. I will never forget that Christmas morning and how much
that gift meant to me! To this day, I have that box, and the doll that lives
in it, along with all of her clothes and accessories, in perfect condition.
She now adorns a special spot in our home every Christmas, and has
been my special "Christmas Treasure" all my life.
She is one of my most prized and deeply loved possessions, and has
been a constant reminder to me that no matter how old I get, or what
happens in life, one should never stop believing in Santa Claus, or lose
faith in the power of giving. It's not the doll, but what she represents
that is special. It's the ability to believe, to maintain faith and hope,
and to keep Christmas dreams alive in the eyes of children that the
doll reminds me of every year.
No gift before her, or since I received her, has had such an impact --
yes, Coleen, there IS a Santa Claus! Coleen Browning