Carolyn Taylor

It has taken me 53 years to get up the courage to share this story:

My parents decided to spend Christmas of 1965 with my Godparents, whom they had not seen since having been stationed in Europe together in the early 1950's. I was born there along with both of my Godsisters. Eventually everyone came back to the U.S. to new duty stations, far apart from one another.

I was about a year old when we left Europe. In 1965 I was twelve, and did not welcome the idea of spending the holidays with a family I did not remember, whose daughters were close to my age, yet strangers. Additionally, I was caustically informed by my mother that the trip itself was the Christmas present, and not to expect presents.

Off we went. We drove from California to Arizona, which took two full days and one night.

At twelve, I still liked dolls and was still a little girl. My thirteenth birthday would occur one week after Christmas, and my mother told me constantly that being thirteen would make me "too old for doll - anymore - ever again".

That idea did not sit well with me.

When we arrived at my Godparent's home, I was completely awestruck by the HUGE and beautifully decorated Christmas tree in the front room of their large home. There were so many wrapped presents under that tree, it looked like the window display of a grand department store. I never saw anything like that in a real family home before.

My parents added the beautiful gifts they brought the family to those under that tree.

I met my Godsisters, who were actually nice little girls and the one my age, so delightful. She liked dolls, too! She knew she was to receive a Shirley Temple doll for Christmas, and her exuberant anticipation was total, complete joy. We spent the few days until Christmas Eve playing together with her dolls.

I also had to listen to my mother constantly and loudly comparing me to Diana, to anyone who would listen: "Diana can sew? Carolyn can't do that." "Look how pretty and cute Diana is!" "Oh my, Diana can cook an entire meal?" and on it went.

Those things were true. Diana's mother was a stay-at-home-mom who taught Diana many things. My mother worked full-time and I was a latch-key child, left to spend long hours alone while both parents worked. On their weekends off, and often in-between, they liked to have a good time (as some people do). I was expected to do many chores the older I got, and somehow figure out how to do them perfectly without being taught.

All the way up to Christmas Eve I heard my mother praise Diana's perfection, silently agreeing with her. After all, Diana had sewn a complete wardrobe for the Shirley Temple doll she was getting for Christmas. Her mother taught her how. I couldn't imagine being the recipient of such individualized attention from my own mom. In my child's mind, Diana was better than me so that was why she was so blessed.

When Diana asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I just shrugged my shoulders. She kept asking. Finally I had to say, "My mother said the trip was Christmas and not to expect presents." Diana was shocked into silence.

The grown-ups did go Christmas shopping. Diana encouraged me that I might yet receive a gift.

Christmas Day dawned. Outside the bedroom doors on doorknobs were wonderful Christmas stockings and one was for me. These were full of tiny wrapped toys and candy. I had never had such a stocking before! Mine were usually a handful of nuts with an orange, maybe a candy cane.

The grown-ups called us to the Christmas tree. Diana had her Shirley Temple doll, her sister and brother their special gifts. I had a grudge gift from my mother... the ugliest stuffed dog in the world. That, plus the little gifts from my godparents, marked Christmas 1965. I had to sit silently in one corner while the others enjoyed their wonderful gifts.

I wished nothing more than to be able to disappear. I was on the edge of tears all day - and tears would be punished, frowned upon. My mother had sung the mantra, "Carolyn is Too Old for Dolls" for the entire visit. She sang it all Christmas Day even though she admired Diana's lovely doll.

But I wanted a Shirley Temple doll, too! Diana had one and she was thirteen, born three months ahead of me. Why was she able to enjoy her dolls, and yet I was "too old"? I did not dare ask and quietly endured the humiliation, my head bowed low to try and shield the silent misery.

We returned to California. Diana located a second Shirley Temple doll in a toyshop. Her family mailed it to me. It was just like Diana's, fifteen inches tall and dressed like a Storybook character, "Little Bo-Peep". Diana also made a wardrobe for my doll, and mailed that.

I cherished this doll. Within two years I earned a composition Shirley Temple by working in a small antique store after school ... that is another story ... My vinyl Shirley disappeared from my parent's home, and the composition Shirley met her own fate.

I am now 53 and have many dolls. Recently, I had a chance to replace the 15" vinyl Shirley. She is perfect, as she would have been when put in her box at the factory.

My husband gave me a 19" vinyl Shirley for my birthday this year. She is also perfect, and arrived in her box with her hangtags, script pin and purse. The famous collector who sold her to me also sold me another 19" vinyl Shirley and a 17" one.

I will NEVER be too old for dolls. We have composition Shirley's in various sizes, a Sowatzka Shirley, and many other kinds of dolls in our home. Our seven-year-old daughter gets to enjoy these dolls and has many, many of her own. All hers have wardrobes. We have many doll armoires jam-packed with lovely doll apparel and accessories.

I will never, ever, tell my child that she is too old for dolls. She will not experience any sort of humiliation, especially like that which I endured for Christmas of 1965, and she will always receive Christmas gifts. She will have memories to treasure. I can be the kind of mother I always wanted, and that is a gift to my daughter.