1988 was a hard year for my mom and me. My mother was re-diagnosed with cancer in March and had surgery, chemo and radiation during most of April. My parents divorce was final in May and we had very little money, forcing us to move from our three-bedroom home in the country to a tiny two-bedroom apartment in town. Unfortunately, this tight budget also limited my Christmas list that year. Mom was working full-time at Target, but I didn't want to stress her out by asking for a bunch of things I knew she couldn't get me. I wanted to keep my wish list small. That's why, when I saw a picture in a women's magazine, I tore it out immediately and showed it to my mom. She gave me a firm "We'll see."
The picture was of the first edition Happy Holidays Barbie doll. She was stunning. I'd always been a Barbie Girl," but they were all packed away now, as I felt I'd outgrown them since I'd turned 14 in July. The kid in me came out, though. I just couldn't resist this doll. Her dress was a vibrant red and had layers of stiff, sparkly red tulle. Her blonde tresses were perfectly curled and she even had tiny little red high-heels to match her gown. She had a beautiful Christmas tree ornament and even her own matching display stand. I wanted this doll more than anything in the world! In fact, I didn't even ask for anything else. I folded the magazine picture carefully and carried it around in my purse for two months.
I knew Target would be getting a shipment sometime in November. I was so impatient, but Mom came home the day after Thanksgiving with a distraught look on her face. She said, "Honey, she just flew off the shelves. Target got six of them in and they were gone within minutes. They told me that's the only shipment we'll get. I'm sorry I couldn't get you one." She was nearly in tears as she apologized for not being able to get one. I was obviously disappointed, but I tried not to let it show, especially knowing how upset Mom was. I told her I understood and gave her an amended Christmas list. Afterward, I took the picture from my purse and threw it out. I didn't want any sour reminders.
We celebrated Christmas at my brother's house that year and we brought all the presents from home and opened them there. Mom was feeling a bit worn out and asked me if I could open up the present one of her coworkers had sent home for her. Her friend knew she'd had a rough year and wanted to make sure she had something to open on Christmas. I opened the package for Mom and handed her the pretty strawberry potholders that her friend had given her and then I noticed what was tucked beneath them...that familiar logo, those gorgeous blonde curls and that vibrant red tulle.
I still don't know how she did it and I never will, but Mom gave me the best present in the whole world that day: she showed me that there is indeed a Santa Claus.
Thank you, Mom.