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Sunday, January 02, 2011

CHATTY CATHY GIVES IT UP: How a Talking Doll Spoiled a Little Boy's Christmas

Since my childhood, I've lived half my life in a a fantasy world. Believing in Santa Claus was one of those myths, and one that I regretted having to give up. Christmas was always very special in our house. Mom and Dad played along with the Santa myth to the fullest, and besides the real Christmas celebration of Jesus' birth, there was plenty of fun, pageants, carolling, sleigh-rides, visits to view the Christmas lights and, best of all, the yearly visit to see dear old Santa Claus.

One of the best Christmases ever was the one when all the cousins came to stay. We were living at my Grandparent's house then, Mom, my sister and I, while Dad served overseas. Every Christmas at my Grandparent's house was full of fun. The Aunts and Uncles and cousins from various parts of Ontario came and the house was full of laughter and good cheer.

That particular Christmas, because of the crowd, my cousins and I were allowed to sleep in the sun porch room. As usual, we stayed up late, played monopoly, crochinole, and Chinese checkers, drank glasses of sparkling ginger-ale (our tee totalling family's 'champagne'), ate lots of delicious goodies that Mom and Grandma had baked, sang carols, told stories, and finally were tucked into bed.

Sometime after midnight, we heard a sound on the roof. Jingling bells. A loud 'Ho! Ho! Ho!" Unmistakable footsteps. It was Santa Claus! He was up on the sun porch roof getting ready to come down our chimney to deliver toys! None of us dared make a sound, and ducked under the covers pretending to be asleep. Sure enough, the next morning there were lots of toys under the tree. Santa had really come, and we had heard him! I could hardly wait for school to resume so I could tell my friends.

The first day back after the holidays, I was bursting with excitement as I entered my class. "Santa Claus came to our house. We heard him on the roof!" I announced to my classmates.
"What?" scoffed an older boy. "Don't you know that Santa is a fake? He's just pretend. You couldn't possibly have heard him!"
I was crushed! I went home for lunch that day in tears. "A boy in my class says Santa isn't real!" I sobbed.
Mom was sympathetic. The disclosure had spoiled some of her Christmas fun too. But she admitted to me that Santa really was just a myth.
"But I heard him on the roof!" I insisted.
"That was just your Uncle Frank pretending to be Santa Claus," Mom explained.

For me, it was one of my biggest disappointments. I was ten years old, and my fantasy world was shattered forever. I've never forgotten it.

Many years later, when I was married and had my own children, I always tried to make Christmas the same kind of magical, exciting time my parents had made it for me. We decorated the tree, had parties, went to visit Santa and took part in all the Christmas festivities in our community. The year my son turned six and my daughter was just about to turn two, the Christmas fantasy got spoiled again.

This is how it happened: That was the year Mattel put out a new kind of doll. One that talked. Her name was Chatty Cathy, a blonde little cherub with a saucy face. When you pulled the ring in her back, she spouted various lines of dialogue such as "Hello, I'm Chatty Cathy. What's your name?"
I couldn't resist buying one for my daughter.



On Christmas Eve night, after the children had been tucked into bed, and my husband and I had waited to make sure they were asleep, we started to put out the toys from Santa under the tree. This ritual also involved eating the cookies and Christmas cake the children had put on a decorated plate and drinking the beer that would help refresh Santa on his journey. After this was done, we took the carefully hidden packages out of the closet and began setting them up: the usual GI-Joe toys and cowboy regalia for my son, the little girl trinkets for my daughter. And Chatty Cathy. I couldn't resist pulling the ring to hear her talk. She was so cute! I knew my daughter would be thrilled with her. Chatty Cathy and I chatted for awhile, then I put her in her special place under the Christmas tree.

The next day, after all the excitement of finding what Santa had left under the tree, opening presents and trying things out was over, I noticed that my son was unusually quiet. I wondered if he was disappointed with his gifts. No, it wasn't that. Very quietly, so as not to spoil things for his little sister, he said: "I know that Santa didn't really bring Chatty Cathy, Mom, because I heard you talking while you were playing with her." I felt so bad! Chatty Cathy had given away the secret of Santa Claus and spoiled the Christmas surprise for my son, just as long ago my class-mate had spoiled Christmas for me by telling me Santa wasn't real. After that, Christmas wasn't quite the same for my son, although we always tried to make it just as much fun. He was a good sport, and went along with the myth of Santa Claus for his little sister's sake.

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