When life gives you dancing dolls, attack the fort

Opinion

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JOHN HUBBUCH

Editor's note: A ghost from Christmases past. We didn't get many responses to our call for "worst presents ever," but old reliable came through. Better late than never.

So many ideas for columns this month. I thought about writing a column analyzing why four trustees persist in finding value in a building that the vast majority of our citizens think is pretty worthless. Or the so very tiresome debate over a perceived discipline gap between OPRF High School black and white students. (What about the yellow students?) Or an architect's failure to renew his license. This big story was over before it started. He renewed his license. Shocking. Pictures at 10.

But then out of nowhere came the editor's call for worst Christmas gift of all time and a long repressed memory flooded back into my mind. I must tell my story.

It was Dec. 24, 1956 in Southern Indiana. I was 7 years old and my brother Bob was 6. The Hubbuch clan would gather at my grandfather's, Pop Hubbuch. Cookies and two different kinds of egg nog were available?#34;one for the kids, one for the parents. The parent's egg nog seemed to invigorate them in a most festive way. Santa came to our house on Christmas morning, but as part of the Christmas Eve ritual there was a gift exchange and each child received one gift from another child. My 10-year-old cousin Judy, whom I had heretofore liked, was the giftgiver for Bob and me.

Our wrapped present was pretty big. By the shape, it wasn't a gun or a football helmet, but it could have been shoulder pads. Oddly, both Bob's present and mine had the same shape.

Eventually our turn to open our presents came, and we tore through the ribbon and wrapping eager to find out what Judy had given us. For a micro-second it wasn't clear what it was, but soon enough the hideous orange hair, the rouged plastic faces with the stupid smiles and the recognizable jumpers revealed our gifts to be ... dolls. Raggedy Andy and Raggedy Ann dolls. Worse yet, these hideous puppets were near life-size and had bands on their big dumb feet that could be attached to our feet so we could dance with Raggedy Andy and Raggedy Ann!

Utter humiliation. Just what a boy in the 1950s wanted?#34;a dancing doll. Are you kidding me? Bob and I looked around at the smiling parents to see if maybe, just maybe, there had been a mistake or it was a big joke. No. This was actually happening to us.

When one of the adults suggested we strap our feet to theirs and start dancing, it was too much. Bob and I started crying inconsolably. Embarrassed importuning of us to stop our wailing completely failed, and we were allowed to retreat to another room as Raggedy Andy and Raggedy Ann leered at us while we departed.

Judy was crying too. Good. She should cry.

That night, Santa came with real boy presents and the nightmare of these life-size dancing dolls began to slowly recede from our consciousness. Later, Bob and I actually found a use for them. We would play "Attack the Fort" and Raggedy Andy and Raggedy Ann were the evil defenders of the fort.

Bob and I were the conquering heroes.

We took no prisoners.

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