On Christmas Eve 1985 our daughter Bess was 5 years old. Everything was ready for Christmas – cookies baked, meals planned, tree trimmed, gifts wrapped (or hidden until Santa could deliver them). We were having breakfast, we five: Deb, Tyson 7, Bess 5, Blake 2, and me. It was a quiet, peaceful morning before the onslaught of Christmas-palooza. A calm breakfast was just what our little family needed. We could ease into the day. Or so I thought. It was then that Bess (with her sweet little sleepy-voice) said, “I don’t care if Santa doesn’t bring me anything else, as long as I get REAL BABY® WITH HER EYES OPEN”! Real Baby® was the Hatchimal® of 1985!
With that announcement, everything changed! WHAT??? When did she ever mention ‘Real Baby’ before this moment? If she had, how did we miss it? Did she tell Santa but not us? Were we awful parents???
Of course, I knew immediately what had to be done. Every daddy knows that you must find ‘THE GIFT’ or risk destroying your little girl’s Christmas dreams. And so, the search began…
I know this sounds like a sitcom, but it really happened and it wasn’t funny. The morning of December 24, 1985 became panic-filled. I jumped into my 1977 Ford Pinto (also not funny) and away I went. This was before the days of cell phones, so I took a handful of change to call home from phones booths. I started out looking in the stores nearby – Venture (remember those?), Target, Sears, and then I fanned out to – more Venture Stores, more Targets, Toys-R-Us, Wal-Mart, Dillard’s, Famous-Barr, JC Penney, Woolworth’s – you name it; I tried. I could find ‘Real Baby With Her Eyes Closed’ (which was kind of scary because she could never wake up) but EVERYONE was sold out of ‘Real Baby With Her Eyes Open’. After each failed attempt to find her, I called home with the grim news – no baby. What was I going to do? How was I going to deal with disappointing our little girl on Christmas morning?
After spending nearly the entire day searching for a doll, that I was certain could not be found, I finally admitted defeat. I was heading home around 5:00 pm when I decided to give it one last try. There was a K-Mart Store west of where we lived and I thought “what the heck” it’s worth a chance. Still in my heart I knew it was foolish.
But as I walked into the Toy Department, there she was – perched on the shelf like an angel. I really thought that the fatigue had gotten to me and that I was just seeing things, but there she was, all by herself, ‘Real Baby With Her Eyes Open’! Only God knows why the most popular doll of 1985 would still be sitting alone on K-Mart’s shelf on Christmas Eve. Maybe it was just my own little Christmas miracle. I’m sure that I had tears in my eyes walking to the checkout counter – again maybe that was just the fatigue.
Needless to say, Bess was very excited the next morning and she literally jumped for joy as she exclaimed, “I knew that Santa would bring her to me!” More tears…
I think that the doll is still in a box in our basement today. Her hair is a little ‘jacked-up’ because she was loved so much. Bess carried her around like a real baby for years (hence the name) and I have never regretted nor will I ever forget that crazy Christmas Eve.
My hope is that each of you is blessed with your own Christmas miracle this year.