Lyn Jones

All I ever wanted for Christmas and birthdays as a child was a baby doll. My two year older sister was not a doll person so my mother would say "There's no point", your sister doesn't play with dolls, in two years you won't either.

My cousin was a year younger than me, and always got whatever she wanted. Our birthdays were just days apart so we often were at each other's present openings.

One year, in the 60's, my cousin opened her present in front of us and there lay the most perfect baby doll... an Ideal Thumbelina, 20 inches tall, knob on back that made her move like a real baby, I was entranced. I would have given anything for that doll to be mine.

My cousin named her Thumbelina "Karen". When we visited, Karen would be sitting on her bed, and my cousin would say "You may look at her but don't touch, she is my doll".

My mother overheard this comment and saw the look of dismay on my face. So that year, for my eighth birthday, when I opened my present - there was a platinum haired, blue eyed, soft bodied "floppy doll", the size of a newborn baby. She didn't wind up or move but none of that mattered, she was my perfect baby. She had vinyl arms, legs and head and a soft stuffed fabric body. I adored her and named her Debby Ann. She was always in my arms and I ignored my cousin's crowing about her "superior" moving doll. To me, Debby Ann was just the best.

My mother announced before Christmas that we would be getting a new baby soon. Christmas morning before dawn, I woke up and sneaked into the lounge room. There under the tree was a beautiful pink cane doll bassinette, with frills and flounces. With sheer ecstasy, I approached and peered under the net.

What? No baby? I was so disappointed.

Later that morning, my parents announced Santa had been there and my mother was mystified that I wasn't overjoyed at this stunning baby bed for my constant companion, Debby Ann. I rallied, of course, and by the end of the day, knew how lucky I was. Debby Ann loved her bed, and it was put along side my bed so I could coo her to sleep. I'd check on her in the night.

January 11th my mother gave birth to my baby sister. The day my aunt brought my cousin to see the new baby, my mum understandingly put the new baby into my doll basket, and my cousin was speechless at the sight of my "latest doll" - a real live baby sister. She couldn't top that!

When I left home at age 20 to marry, my mother washed and made dresses for all our old dolls and gave them to a charity shop. I was devastated when she told me weeks later and rushed to the shop, but they had all sold. I mourned the loss of Debby Ann for years.

I gave birth to six sons in a row, so no chance of a house full of dolls for me. Then finally, my one and only precious daughter arrived - blonde hair, blue eyes. As I held her for the first time, my mind took me back to my eighth birthday again.

As a footnote, about two years ago, my parents moved house (yet again, a regular occurrence). My mother unpacked a box of old linen, stamped for embroidery, that she had kept for 25 years or more, but not bothered to unpack. Inside, under a pile of linen tablecloths, wrapped in an old bunny rug, there was Debby Ann.