As I recall, it was a few weeks before Christmas when my mother asked me what I wanted as we rode a department store’s escalator. I was 12, many years past believing in Santa Claus. My childhood was slipping away and I felt unsure what would happen next.
My eyes searched the store from the escalator’s vantage point. I pointed toward a boxed doll positioned on a shelf high above the store’s counters. The doll was a couple of feet tall and wearing a blue ball gown of taffeta and satin. Her hair was blond.
“I’d like that doll,” I said.
My mother was doubtful. “Are you sure?” she asked.
I said yes, and then later wished I had asked for something else. But my busy mother was relieved to get that chore out of the way.
As we approached Christmas morning, I was miserable. I felt the same way when I unwrapped my gift and stared into the doll’s blue glass eyes. Her skin was made of a synthetic rubber to make it feel like it was real, sort of, if the doll were a corpse. Blonde and blue-eyed, she looked like no one in my dark-haired Portuguese family. My guess is she was supposed to be a teenager at the prom.
I had other dolls, and even a Barbie. I named this one Veronica. She sat on my bed and got played with a bit. She was not my favorite.
My parents held onto Veronica in their attic after I grew up and moved away. One time as an adult, I brought the doll back for my daughters, but they were not interested in her either. By then, one of my younger sisters had chopped off her hair unevenly and the blue gown was raggedy. Her limbs were bent in a bow as if they had atrophied. Her shoes, sparkly high heels I recall, and underpants were long gone.
Eventually, I tossed her out.
I learned a lesson that year. Ask for what you really want. But perhaps at that time in my life, at age 12, what I wanted was finality.