Have a Safe and Happy Labour Day Weekend everyone - talk to you on Tuesday!
MERRY CHRISTMAS CATHY
It all started in 1963. There I was, in my box on the top shelf of the doll isle in The T Eaton & Co. store in downtown Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Where is Winnipeg, you ask?
Well if you took a map of Canada and folded it in half matching the east coast to the west, then pressed a crease right down the middle – well you’d be close enough to Winnipeg to see the Golden Boy. But that’s another story; we were talking about the T Eaton store in downtown Winnipeg.
I wish you could have seen the store that year. It was ablaze with lights and decorations from the basement to the 9th floor. Christmas was everywhere. It was the main shopping destination for every man and woman and the toy section was every child’s dream come true.
The store windows on the street level were decked out with wonderful winter scenes. Each window was a different scene, filled with popular toys that were for sale in the store. Some windows were decorated with toys for boys to play with; others were only for the girls.
My favorite window was the one of a life –sized doll house complete with every piece of doll furniture available; the dolls even had a Christmas tree with presents beneath it. Oh, it was grand! There were sleighs for the dolls to ride in, ponds for them to skate across, and piles of snow for them to toboggan down. A few of my friends got to spend the whole Christmas season, playing in the doll’s window scene.
The rest of us - me along with twenty-four other dolls just like me, stood in our boxes on shelves in the toy department on the fourth floor. Our days were spent watching moms and dads as they searched for the perfect Christmas present for their little girls.
We were the most sought-after doll that year. Chatty Cathy, the talking doll that said eleven different things.
“Just pull her ring; you never know what she’ll say next.” Every little girl knew the closing line in our TV Commercial. They had been watching that commercial for weeks now. What they didn’t know was how much we wanted to be taken home and played with by our own little girl.
I secretly wanted a girl of my own, but what I really wanted was the pretty red coat with the white collar that came as part of my wardrobe. If I could get a girl and a red coat, well I guess I would just about be the happiest doll ever!
One by one that Christmas season, the boxes of the other dolls started to leave the shelf. We had all been born in the same factory, so when a box left the shelf in the hands of a happy Mom or Dad we silently wished our sister farewell, along with a silent prayer that they would live in a happy home, with a nice girl to play with them.
As the days drew closer to Christmas I waited and waited. It seemed that every little girl this year wanted the yellow- haired doll with the blue dress and shoes. My hair was dark – they called me the brunette model, and my dress and shoes were red. I thought that went pretty well with the colors of Christmas, but I guess the little girls in 1963 didn’t care about such things.
The doll in the box next to mine was getting sort of nervous that perhaps we would not be wanted at all. She too had darker hair – not as dark as mine, but not yellow either. Hers was more reddish, but she did have a blue dress and shoes, only her dress did not have a pinafore with it.
“Pssssssssst… Cathy, are you getting scared that we are going to be stuck in these boxes forever?” She whispered when the isle finally emptied of people.
“Not really, Chatty. Someone will want us, eventually.”
“But what if they don’t? Will that mean that we have to stay in these boxes forever?”
I didn’t get a chance to tell her that everything would be okay because a couple who had been walking up and down the isle for awhile had finally stopped right in front of our boxes and they were staring up at us.
"I don’t know, Walter; the girls really wanted blonde dolls. It doesn’t look like there are any left.” The lady said, her voice rising in frustration.
The man looked around him, “We could always go back and get the nurse kits or the baking sets.”
“No, they told Santa it had to be Chatty Cathy this year; we’ll just have to take what we can find.”
“I suppose I could ask a sales clerk, maybe they have more in the back somewhere.” The man pivoted on his heels and headed down the isle away from her.
The lady studied us and paced the floor while she waited. “I think you two are kind of cute,” she quietly told us. “If we don’t buy you, I’m afraid we won’t get a doll like you anywhere! Oh what to do, what to do?”
“The clerk said these are the last two, once they are gone they will be sold out.” The man was back. He reached forward and plucked my box off the shelf and threw it in the shopping cart. In went my friend’s box, smack dab on top of mine.
“He could have been more gentle,” Chatty hissed, as we whizzed down the isle towards the check out area.
“Yeah, that would have been nice,” I whispered back as we hurriedly moved towards the store entrance.
And that was the last time we ever saw the T Eaton& Co, store in downtown Winnipeg.
The temperature was twenty-nine below freezing that night outside of the store. We bounced along in the shopping cart across the frozen sidewalks and rutty streets until we got to our new owner’s car. Grumbling under his breath that he ought to have his head examined he carelessly tossed us into the trunk of the car and then slammed down the trunk lid.
“Are you okay, Cathy?” Chatty sounded like she was about to cry. “I feel like my speaker has rattled loose.” She whispered desperately.
“I’m sure it is fine, Chatty. We won’t be here long, I’m sure. Soon we will be somewhere safe and warm… I just know it!”
Of course I knew nothing of the sort, but Chatty was a sensitive doll. She had been fearful since the day we had left the factory, and I made it my goal to try and be the best friend to her in the absence of a “real girl” friend.
“Close your eyes and pretend you are sledding in the window scene,” I said. “You are dressed in that pretty red coat with the white fur collar and hat. Some nice store clerk has tucked some thick warm blankets around you on the sled. You fly down the hill, all the way to the bottom, and when you stop, there is a little girl standing watching you from the other side of the window. She places her mittened hands on the window and smiles, then waves hello. You can’t wave back but you can wish that she is the little girl who will be your girl forever more. ”
“That’s a nice thought, Cathy. Thanks for helping me feel better,” Chatty said quietly.
The car finally stopped moving. Good, soon they would be in a nice warm building again, the two dolls couldn’t wait to get out of the cold.
“I think we should leave the dolls in the trunk, Bonnie. That way the girls won’t stumble upon them somewhere in the house,” the man said as he began to get out of the car. His wife agreed, but she was in a hurry to get out of the cold, so she left the task of hiding us to her husband. He grabbed a couple of old car blankets from the work bench in the garage and tossed them over our boxes. The light overhead went out and we were left alone.
“Oh Cathy, it’s so cold out here. C-c-can’t you just feel your front teeth chattering?”
“Yes, Chatty. I wish they would have taken us inside where it is warm; I hope they don’t leave us out here too long, our limbs might crack in this cold!”
“I wonder what the girls are like that are going to get us for Christmas?” Chatty sounded like she was about to cry again.
“I think we should concentrate on thinking about the nice little girls who will give us so much love, maybe then it will not seem so cold.” Chatty was right, my teeth were really chattering!”
In the end, we both fell asleep. We spent several days waiting in the cold trunk of the car before the man returned and moved us into the house.
Once we were carried into the house they wrapped our boxes in thick Christmas wrapping paper. My paper was covered with funny little snowmen; Chatty had jolly big Santa’s all over hers. They placed our boxes under the tree almost all the way to the back. My box sat right under a nice fat tree bulb so I was kept warm, Chatty was quiet, so I knew she was asleep. All night long I waited for Christmas morning to arrive.
I had just started to doze off to sleep when I heard some excited children’s voices.
“Santa was here!” squealed one voice.
“Hurry, go get Mom and Dad up,” yelled another.
I could hear parcels being rattled, I could even hear the odd tear of paper, and then someone hollered, “Don’t open anything until Dad gets here!”
Finally my box was lifted, I was airborne for a moment and then plunked down on the floor. I heard the Dad's familiar voice as he said, “This says to Wendy, from Santa.”
“For me? Replied a young child’s voice.
Wendy! My child’s name is Wendy, and that is her voice! I closed my eyes and sighed. Now I too was excited to have the paper removed, I so wanted to see Wendy. My box shook and rattled, the paper was torn away and forgotten and then I saw her.
There she was; Wendy - my new friend - my girl! She had dark hair just like mine and she wore glasses. She squinted at me, and I tried not to smile too brightly, but I was so happy to see her! She was opening the box - Yes! Finally I was getting out!
She lifted me out of the box with little hands that shook with excitement. Her little fingers went right for my pull string behind my neck. She pulled…
“I Love You, “ I said.
I have no control on the order of my words, but my first words seemed to please her because she hugged me close and told me she loved me back.
I knew then that everything would be okay.