When I was a child, there was one toy I always wanted but never received. I would visit toy stores and go straight to the aisle where they sold…the Barbie dolls.
To me, this strangely proportioned doll was the last word in sophistication and glamour, an adult doll who had a boyfriend, super fashions, makeup, a camper van and various exciting professions. In contrast, I was a little girl from New Zealand who liked playing with baby dolls, reading Famous Five books and dressing up her long-suffering cats in bonnets and booties.
When we went to live in Los Angeles for a couple of years, my desire was fed even more. Instead of the small independent toy stores with narrow aisles and teddy bears that I was used to in New Zealand, there was the mega-store Toys R Us. This was a mixture of heaven and hell for kids: heaven because of all the amazing stock it had, and hell because there was so much you wanted but would never get.
I hoped that I would receive a Barbie doll for Christmas or my birthday (which are within two weeks of each other), but to no avail. Then, when I was 11, my American friend Andrea, already into fashion and makeup and talking about boys, laughed her socks off when she saw the doll collection in my room. “You still play with DOLLS?” she said incredulously. “A Barbie might be OK, but…BABY DOLLS?”
I put those dolls away after that, but I still always sneaked around to the Barbie aisle whenever we went to a toy shop.
So, I grew up, and got my own exciting profession, boyfriend (then husband), fashions and makeup. When I was in my 30s, my mother and I were talking one day and I told her about my great childhood longing for a Barbie doll.
“But you never asked for one,” she said. It had never occurred to her that I would want one, and she probably didn’t think such a doll was really appropriate for a little girl, anyway.
I realised then that I had just hoped that somehow she’d know I wanted a Barbie. But she was right: I’d never expressly asked for one. In the 1970s, we children weren’t allowed to whine about toys we wanted, especially when so many children around the world were starving, as our parents constantly reminded us.
When I was 41, I received a special present from my mother: I finally had my Barbie doll. What’s more, it was a mermaid Barbie, because my mother knew I was fascinated by mermaids. “Now don’t say I never gave you a Barbie!” she said. And here it is:
This post was written in response to the Daily Prompt word a day challenge, here, which asked, “Was there a toy or thing you always wanted as a child, during the holidays or on your birthday, but never received? Tell us about it”. I got inspired when I read a post by Fransi Weinstein, about a fabulous pair of shoes she coveted as a teenager. You can access her post here.