After a seemingly endless morning meal, the big people announced it was time to open gifts. This too would require patience as gifts were opened one at a time. My brothers and I were jumpy, clapping at the opening of each gift, not because what someone else received was so great, but because each gift opened put us that much closer to our own. Finally my turn came. Around the room it went, and it was my turn again. And then again. And then one more time. This last package, from Grandpa and Glenna, was as big as I was. I trembled to think what it could be. I was encouraged to peel the paper away slowly but I couldn't hold back. Suddenly, there she was! I was 4 years old and the ever so happy recipient of an Eskimo doll every bit as tall as me. She wore a fuzzy hooded parka, fuzzy mukluks, and a plastic face. A hint of jet-black hair was painted across her forehead. She was beautiful. She was exotic. And she was flammable.
Grandpa took Great-Grandma and Glenna back home early the next day. Other relatives had come for another dinner. During dinner, my brother noticed a fire truck in the neighborhood. Its lights were flashing but there was no siren. It moved down the street slowly. Firemen were going door to door. And then they came to our house. There was mumbling and an offer of coffee. I was told to bring my Eskimo doll to the table. One of the firemen plucked a bit of fur from the hood of my doll's parka. He laid it in an ashtray and put a match to it. The fur became instantly alight and disappeared. I held my doll tightly. There was more mumbling; something about the floor furnace, and then my heart sank. The firemen took my Eskimo doll with them.
My parents didn't tell my Grandfather and Glenna about this until their Christmas visit in 1980. By then we'd moved across town into a bigger house. Grandpa said he wished he'd have known about the firemen and the doll but thought I was too grown for a replacement. Glenna took me aside later and said she wished she could replace it, that she didn't think anyone could be too grown for a doll they'd had for such a short time. During that same conversation she asked me about my interests and I told her how much I liked to write. After Christmas day dinner I retreated upstairs to my bedroom with an armful of wonderful things. Glenna came up later with a bag. It held a package of pens and several notebooks. If this were a chicken soup story, I would talk about Glenna encouraging me to write about that fateful Christmas day. But this is my story. Glenna looked into my eyes, cupped my face in her hands, and said nothing. My heart swelled every bit as much as it had ached so many years ago.