Stirring up memories
The Sparkle Plenty Christmas
December 26, 2006
I wasn't sneaking.
No matter what Mother said I wasn't sneaking. Snooping either. If I had been would I have told what I found?
It was dark and cold in early December, Mother was ironing while we waited for my older sister to get home so we could wrap the presents that we had to mail tomorrow. I was seven years old and bored. No kiddy shows on television—no television in 1947. Mother listened to "One Man's Family" on the radio. I worked on my letter to Santa.
It was easy. I only wanted one thing. The same thing almost every little girl in America—maybe the world—ached for that year. A Sparkle Plenty Doll. Oh! Please, Santa! A Sparkle Plenty Doll.
We didn't have television but we all read the funny papers, especially Dick Tracy, right on the front page. Everyone knew that last June old B.O. Plenty and his banjo-playing wife Gravel Gertie had a baby—baby girl, the cutest baby girl in the world! Sparkle Plenty.
Now, pictures of the Sparkle Plenty Doll with her long, wavy woolen yellow hair and her "life-like" skin filled the magazines and the Sears and Montgomery Ward catalogues, but not the stores. They were out.
"Went like hotcakes!" They reported on the 6 o'clock news on KGNC.
Sparkle Plenty was all I wanted.
"Maybe." That was the best I could get out of Mother.
After I finished my letter to Santa, Mother was still ironing. I decided to go exploring. Since it was too cold to go outside, I went exploring in my parents' closet. It was full on interesting things and smelled exactly like Mother's "Toujours Moi" perfume. I checked out the shoe rack and laid my head on Mother's soft furry mouton coat. Then I noticed that Daddy's cowboy boots stood higher than usual. There was a huge brown bag underneath.
Hmmmmm. That hadn't been there last week when I went exploring. I crawled deeper into the closet and pulled back the edge of the bag.
I whooped and ran straight into the kitchen to Mother.
Now does that sound like I was snooping?
"Look, look what I found! Sparkle Plenty!" I was elated—for a few seconds.
Oh, did Mother get mad fast!
She jerked that gorgeous dolly right out of my hands and stuck her up on the top of the refrigerator, 'way over my head.
"And what makes you think that doll is for you, you snoopy young lady? You'd better learn not to look where you don't belong. I'm just keeping that doll for Mrs. Camp. It's for Sharon." Sharon was my best friend, born on exactly the same day I was.
How unfair. Sharon was going to get my Sparkle Plenty.
That night, Daddy made me rewrite my letter to Santa. Mother told me to ask for another doll instead of Sparkle Plenty. Santa would do his best, but she understood the North Pole was "plain old out of Sparkle Plenty dolls." Daddy said that he'd seen a Red Cap, one of Santa's elves peeking in the window. That's how Santa knew who'd been naughty and who'd been nice. Peeking in closets was very, very, very naughty, Daddy told me. He talked about stockings full of switches and ashes. I cried.
I wrote another letter, but I didn't ask for a doll. I asked for a teddy bear. If I couldn't have Sparkle Plenty, I didn't want a doll.
It was an awful Christmas. I wouldn't talk to Santa when he came to the school cafeteria the day before vacation began.
On Christmas Eve night I looked at the picture book of A Christmas Carol. Old Scrooge looked just like Daddy. They made me put out the chocolate chip cookies and milk for Santa. I even went to the refrigerator and got a couple of carrots for the reindeer. It wasn't much fun. Daddy said something about ashes again.
I headed straight to bed and didn't even stay awake to listen for sleigh bells. Who wanted to wait up for Santa, anyway? He wasn't bringing anything I wanted.
Christmas morning, my sister punched me awake. It was okay to go in and check out the stockings before Mother and Daddy got up.
The carrots had disappeared and only half a cookie was left. Nan was squealing over ukulele she'd hoped for. I looked up to see if I'd even gotten a teddy bear or if my stocking really was full of ashes.
There she was! Mother and Daddy might be mean, but not Santa! Good old Santa!
The most beautiful doll in the world smiled at me from the top of my stocking. My very own Sparkle Plenty—and a note from Santa saying he realized it was all a mistake. The Red Cap told him that I really was exploring. My name made his good-little-girl list.
I sparkled all day.
P.S. I don't know what became of my Sparkle Plenty doll. Someday when I open an old box in the attic, maybe she'll pop out. I know I'd never have given her away. The "real" Sparkle Plenty grew up and married Dick Tracy, Jr. They have a daughter named Sparkle Plenty, Jr. She should be about grown now.
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Trilla Pando is a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance & the Story Circle Network