Saturday, September 5, 2009

Paper Doll Afternoon

1975. I am almost five years old, but I feel a whole lot older as I walk home slowly from my best friend's house. Kristin is an only child. She has an all-pink room, a canopy bed and a Barbie camper with matching accessories. Her house is always clean and quiet and no one disturbs Barbie and Skipper as they hike the Grand Canyon and roast hot dogs in high heels and evening gowns.


I share a bunkbed with a younger brother who uses our communal toybox as his own nighttime Porta-potty. Another little brother sleeps in the crib down the hall. And, although she hasn't told me so, I'm pretty sure the bump growing under Mom's shirt is going to be another noisy, annoying little person...probably a boy. Our house is clean, but never quiet. I only have one Barbie doll, but she sleeps in the toybox and so her hair smells funny.


I don't want to go home today.


It is hard to be the oldest and to be the only girl. I am not even in kindergarten, but I feel wise and worn beyond my years. My lot in life is to be the helper, the example, the big sister. I love my parents and they love me. Mostly I enjoy bossing my brothers around. They are hyper, but harmless. Still, sometimes I just wish I had a pink canopy bed and a mother all to myself.


Somehow, magically, when I get home Mom senses my mood. She makes sugar sandwiches for lunch, sings Edelweiss to the boys and tucks them away for naps. Then, leaving dishes in the sink and laundry to be folded, she leads me to the living room and makes me a paper doll.


This paper doll is not like Barbie or Skipper. She doesn't have a ballgown or high heels. This doll is named Gabriele, just like me. And her wardrobe is very familiar--a yellow rosebud nightgown, striped turtlenecks and corduroys, even a dress with an animal-cracker-box print like the one I wear to church.


Mom is good at drawing and even better at telling stories. She tells me all about the little doll-- Gabi --and the places she wears her cute clothes. She tells me, without really saying so, that she knows it is hard to be the oldest and to share a bunkbed and a toybox and a mom. She tells me she would rather sit beside me than clean up the kitchen or take the nap she needs.


And, even though I'm not yet old enough to go to school, I am educated in eternal truth that afternoon. I realize right then what a lucky, lucky girl I am. That having a mom who sings and draws and sits and listens and talks and understands is better than a million Barbie campers. That it's ok to share your mom with a whole bunch of siblings as long as she's the kind of mom who somehow loves each of you so completely that, individually, you go to sleep at night secure in the knowledge that you are her favorite child.


Happy Birthday, Mom!

I love you completely and forever.

From, Your Favorite

Go wish my mom a happy sixtieth and check out her awesome self-improvement course.

20 comments:

Annemarie said...

This needs to be published. Somewhere.
I loved this and felt like I was walking home from Kristin's house right along with you.

Happy Birthday to your wonderful mom!
And thanks for teaching me something today!

the wrath of khandrea said...

beautiflly written. it made me tear up. you really do have a super mom. happy birthday oma!!

diane said...

I love your mom.

You are gifted and we know where you got it.

queenieweenie said...

tears...lots of them.

that was beautiful.

Travelin'Oma said...

This is so, so sweet. I wonder if it ever actually happened that way. I hope it did, and even if it didn't, that's how I felt deep inside. But I'm sure I often acted pregnant, and like I needed a nap, and like I wished my little five-year-old daughter would potty-train those little boys and cook us all a delightful dinner. And sometimes you even did! You are definitely in contention for favorite kid, I have to say.

Rochelleht said...

That totally chocked me up. I pray that I can be that mom.

And as for being the oldest and only girl, it does stink, but eventually, you at least got sisters. No such luck for me. But, I don't have to share my mom with other girls. Boys don't count, you know. ;-) Mom and I are going on a girls' trip on two weeks and she'd never do that with my brothers!

Christie said...

Your mom truly is the best. LOVE her to pieces. This was beautiful.

nimmy and girlies said...

Well said, Gabi! Weren't you so thrilled that mom had a little girl that year? I know I must have brought much joy to your life, right?

Happy Birthday, Mom! I love you.

Cathy said...

So very wonderful, your mom will cherish this forever! What wonderful "stock" you come from!

Jessica said...

I want to be a mom like that. Thanks.

Lauren in GA said...

Gabi, I just can't tell you enough how much I love your writing.

I loved this. I agree with Annemarie...it needs to be published.

I remember having several friends with a canopy bed and less siblings than I had. This post struck a chord with me in that way and many others.

Lauralee said...

LOVED reading that! loved it. what a great mom- what a gift she has given you- with your writing abilities! I just checked out her blog and joined her class...thanks for sharing.. it should be fun!

brooke said...

I needed to hear that about your mom today. I want to slow down and be that kind of mom. Your mom is one of a kind.

Marci said...

More evidence that you need to write a book. I can hardly see through all the tears! Thanks for sharing such a beautiful story about your beautiful mom. She is amazing!

martha corinna said...

That was such an evocative story, and your mom is inspiring.

Ditto to everything in the first half of your story, even the sharing the room with your brother (except my brother peed the bed and wore alarmed underwear). My life was all the same up until the wonderful paper doll. I usually came home to a Nazi(and coincidentally German) babysitter named Gertie. Unfortunately, she didn't make paper dolls.

Amanda D said...

I love this. Happy birthday to your mom!

Yancey Family said...

I'm a fan of Dr. Laura. I emailed the link of your story to her. I think she should read it on air! What a great tribute to your mom. Because of your post my computer will not go on tomorrow. I am going to give them all my love and attention!

Hazen5 said...

That was just beautiful! I hope my children feel the same way about me one day. That was such a special gift to your mom.

Sally said...

Beautiful and inspiring. Thank you for posting this and reminding me to keep striving to be that mom.

Melissa said...

Beautiful. I want to be that mom, and I want my children, all 5, to know how much I love being that mom.

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