Every year we couldn’t wait for it, the day when the Christmas edition of the JcPenny’s catalog finally arrived. We would spend hours searching every inch of that catalogue picking out, circling, and then crossing off every toy we ever wanted. Crossing off was an important part because you see, we knew we had a limit. Who knows where the number came from or how it was established but we kids knew that Santa allotted exactly $100 for each of us for Christmas. So just as important as circling every toy we wanted in the JcPenny catalogue crossing off the ones we decided we really didn’t want was just as important. By the time Christmas rolled around that magazine was thrashed. Every single page with toys was worn, corners folded, and torn (from many fights over who’s turn it was to look at it next).
Then came the Christmas that I had my heart set on something not in the JcPennys catalogue. Whether it was her similar name or similar heritage I don’t know, but all I wanted for Christmas the winter of 1992 was the American Girl Doll named Kirsten. She came with a catalogue all her own. I remember filling out a postcard from the back of one of her books to start receiving the magazine. Every day I poured over the pages of the magazine not only the pictures and advertisements for the doll but each and every single accessory that you could purchase besides the doll. I dreamed of having each of her dresses, all of hats and mittens, and shoes. But each and every time I saw the price of Kirsten my heart sank. The doll along wearing her original outfit cost $94. I knew that I wasn’t getting anything more than just Kirsten that Christmas. I remember telling myself it was okay. Really Kirsten was all that mattered. I could ask for one of the $28 dresses for my birthday. Probably her pink and white gingham birthday dress.
But I seriously remember giving myself a pep talk that Christmas eve that it was okay to not get all of the Kirsten catalogue. Night finally came and I couldn’t sleep. I just laid and watch the numbers on the clock slowing switch. When it got to a time that I was positive Santa had already been to our house, I pulled my flashlight from under my pillow and slowing crept up the stairs to see if she was there. I squealed with delight when I saw her. There she was sitting on our maroon couches. Just waiting for me. I didn’t even dare touch her because I was afraid my mom would know. So I hurried downstairs crawled back into bed and with a huge smile on my face I knew this was going to be the best Christmas ever.
When eternity had passed and my mom had turned on the Christmas tree lights and made my dad get out of bed, we ran into the living room. Being the sneaky little girl that I was I pretended I was looking at Kirsten for the first time. I held her, brushed her hair, and couldn’t believe I was so lucky.
As we started opening presents under the tree I started to brace myself. I knew there shouldn’t be any presents under the tree for me. You can’t imagine my surprise when during the night my mom had wrapped up 4 or 5 different packages for me. You see, she knew me all too well. I was known for being the snoopiest one of them all.
When it got to my turn to open my first gift I was so excited I almost couldn’t stand it. I couldn’t believe it. It was the pink and white gingham dress that Kirsten wore at her birthday! With the matching white apron and sunflower crown! I was so confused. This dress with the accessories was $28. It was over my limit. Then it was my next turn…. Her red school dress with a blue shawl. Next, her nightgown. Her light cotton summer dress with a matching straw hat. Her Scandinavian sweater, wool skirt, and knitted hat and mittens. And last, her traditional Swedish Christmas outfit with the Christmas crown with candles and all!!!! I couldn’t believe it. I had gotten every single one of Kirsten’s outfits! I was so excited but I didn’t understand. Each of these outfits were at least $28 each and I was already so close to my budgeted $100. How had my mom done this???? Santa only have $6 to get all of this!
And then I got my last present from my Grandma. Each year my grandparents typically gave us a new book. So of course because it wasn’t every really a fun surprise I already saved that present for last. So when I opened the package and it wasn’t a book I was a little confused. It was something with Kirsten on the cover. It took me a second to realize what it was. Patterns to make all of Kirsten’s clothes. But it had already been opened. It was then that it hit me. My mom had known about Santa’s budget of $100. She knew that Santa wouldn’t be bringing me all of Kirsten’s clothes. So she had examined that American Girl Magazine just as close as I had. She had used the money from my grandparents to buy the patterns, she found the fabrics to exactly match the ones in the magazine, and she had sewn every single one of Kirsten’s dresses for me. All so I could have my perfect Christmas.
Years later I see my mom taught me a lesson so much more important that just giving your child a perfect Christmas. Now I think of the hours she must have spent late at night sewing those tiny intricate dresses, accessories, and even making a flower crown. It would have been so much easier for her to buy all of those Kirsten outfits from the catalogue. So much easier to just spend more money. But there was an important lesson to be learned. And man oh man I am forever grateful that my mom loved me that much.