It was an Essex and had a rumble seat, but it was much too cold for any of us to ride out there. I was jammed into the front seat with my Aunt Dorothy and my very small grandmother. The gear shift was between my snowsuit-clad legs. The heater was doing its best to stave off the Chicago December cold. In fact, it was blowing directly in my face.
The mood was somber.
This was not a joy ride, but a serious mission, not to be taken lightly. We were on our way to redeem our bulging books of Royal Blue stamps. My mother was driving. My dad usually did the driving in the family, so my mother was not very confident as we bumped over icy, rutted roads.
Even though my snowsuit was itchy and my rubber boots were uncomfortable, I was aware that 6-year-old girls were to be seen and not heard, so I suffered in silence.
Now after the stock market crash of 1929, money was a scarce and precious commodity. So we were going Christmas shopping with our treasured Royal Blue stamps. These gifts would be for others. Santa would bring mine, I was certain.
Big globs of wet snow slapped the windshield as the thump, thump, thump of wipers struggled against it.
The stamp redemption center was stocked with a large assortment of household items, which the ladies seemed to enjoy but the toy section to me was a dream-come-true.
While exploring this new-found wonderland, I came upon the most beautiful doll I had ever imagined. She had eyes that opened and closed and when you tipped her over she said, “Ma Ma.” I was in love.
When I excitedly showed her to my mother she said, “Oh, sweetheart, we don’t have any more stamps.”
Soon we were all jammed back in the car — packages and all. Pressing uncomfortably on my leg was a shiny new sled. When my grandmother noticed me admiring it, she said quietly, “It’s for your cousin Bud.” I remember thinking how lucky he was.
In the tiny apartment where I lived with my parents, I slept on a studio couch in the dinette. My mother and father pulled a Murphy bed down out of the wall every night. It completely filled the living room. The Christmas tree shared the dinette with me.
Christmas morning when I awoke, there under the brightly lighted tree was a beautiful doll exactly like the one I had seen when we were shopping and next to her stood a shiny new sled just like cousin Bud’s. I squealed with delight and said, “How did Santa
Claus know? How did he know?”
Mother just smiled and whispered, “It’s magic.”
Jean Tait Carnright is a Miramar Beach resident.