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Remembering Pattaburp!
By Michelle Close Mills   


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Happiness can come in tiny packages...

 

 

In October of 1966, my friend Mary received a “Pattaburp” doll for her birthday.

 

The moment that sweet face emerged from the gift wrap I was in love.

 

Pattaburp was soft and cuddly, with short brownish red hair, a fluffy pink dress, rosebud lips and big blue eyes surrounded by a fringe of thick lashes. Best of all when her back was tapped a few times, she’d burp.

 

It was a healthy burp too.

 

Like most of her toys, Mary quickly tired of Pattaburp and tossed her aside like an old sock. But do you think she’d let me play with her?

 

Never.   

 

Fuming, I told myself that stingy Mary could keep her doll. Christmas was coming. If I wrote him a letter and asked nicely, maybe he would bring me my own Pattaburp.

 

As with most five year olds, I had no concept of money and didn’t realize that our family lived paycheck to paycheck. I also didn’t realize that Santa’s gifts came from those paychecks. When I found Pattaburp in a catalog, my mother gently informed me that she was rather expensive; seven whole dollars. Santa might not be able to afford her.

 

At first I was crushed.

 

“Mama I thought Santa’s elves made my toys at the North Pole. Does he have to go to the store and buy me a Pattaburp?

 

“I don’t know how that works honey, but it couldn’t hurt for you could write him a letter and tell him what you want” she said with a smile. “Just be sure to remind him you were a good girl this year. That may help.”

 

With Mama’s help, my letter to Santa was on its way to the North Pole the very next day.

 

As soon as the door to the mailbox closed, I went to Mary’s house.

 

“I sent a letter to Santa and he’s going to bring me my own Pattaburp, so you can keep your ole doll” I smugly announced, and stuck out my tongue.

 

“Don’t be silly Shelly. Santa Claus isn’t real. Everyone knows that” she retorted and shut the door.

 

Heartbroken, I went home and told Mama what Mary had said.

 

“Not real? Of course he’s real because you believe he’s real. You sent him a letter. Let’s see what happens ok? Now dry your eyes and let’s have a cookie” she said, hugging me.

 

Little did I know that over the next few weeks, Mama was worried sick about how she and dad would find seven dollars so they could get that doll for me.

 

I was worried too. What if Mary was right? If Santa wasn’t real, I might never have my own Pattaburp.

 

However I needed have worried. Pattaburp (forevermore known as Patty) was patiently waiting for her new mommy under the tree. I was so relieved that I burst into tears.

 

In the years that followed I received many other dolls from family and friends. They should have saved their money. I only wanted Patty.

 

Eventually my constant companion began looking a bit rough around the edges, as beloved toys often do. But I didn’t mind a little dirt. Patty was a part of me. She was always there when I needed her. She listened to my troubles, her cheeks were peppered with my childish kisses, and I cradled her in my arms as I slept.

 

Inevitably all girls grow up and stop playing with dolls on their journey to womanhood. I was no exception. Yet every morning before I got ready for work, I’d regress for a moment, hug my precious Patty and breathe in the fading scent of my childhood. Then she’d lie against the fluffy pillows of my bed; a place of honor for a cherished friend.

 

As with all children, I learned the truth about Santa and assumed that my folks had given Pattaburp to me. Yet years later when Grandma passed away, Mama finally told me that it was Grandma who gave me the doll. 

 

What was even sweeter was why she did it.

 

She too had wanted a beautiful store bought porcelain doll with real hair, which she received from Santa.

 

In reality, she discovered that her beloved grandpa sold his pocket watch to buy her doll. She didn’t hesitate when she knew she could do the same for me, even though she too had little money to spare.

 

"I couldn't bear to have her disappointed" she told my mother.

 

Grandma’s simple act of love brightened my world for years to come.  

 

I think of Patty each Christmas Eve as I watch my nieces and nephews tear the paper from their vast array of gifts. It usually takes them about ten minutes. Months of lay-away payments, and weeks of preparation was wiped out in the time it took to eat a sandwich.

 

After the grand unveiling, the floor was knee deep in wrapping paper which was promptly stuffed into a trash bag. All clues of who had given what to whom had disappeared.

 

Grandma Helen used to say “It’s harder to get excited about something that’s too easy to get.”

 

She was right. Most of the gifts I’ve received in recent years are a blur of boxes and thank you notes.  

 

Yet heaven- sent gifts given during leaner times are rarely forgotten. Like Grandma’s first Christmas tree.

 

And I’ll never forget the best Christmas present of my young life.

 

I’ll always remember Pattaburp.

 

I think of Patty each Christmas Eve as I watch my nieces and nephews tear the paper from their vast array of gifts. It usually takes them about ten minutes. Months of lay-away payments, and weeks of preparation was wiped out in the time it took to eat a sandwich.

 

After the grand unveiling, the floor was knee deep in wrapping paper which was promptly stuffed into a trash bag. All clues of who had given what to whom disappeared.

 

Grandma Helen used to say “It’s harder to get excited about something that’s too easy to get.”

 

She was right. Most of the gifts I’ve received in recent years are a blur of boxes and thank you notes. 

 

As we prosper it's easy to forget whose birthday we celebrate. We rush to and fro buying dozens of presents, attending parties and wearing ourselves to a frazzle. Many of us lose our Christmas joy out of sheer exhaustion. It’s just too much, and little of it has anything to do with Jesus.

 

The Prince of Peace wasn't born in a place befitting royalty. His parents were poor. He was born in a stable and napped on hay in a manger surrounded by animals. His was a humble birth, witnessed by simple people who found themselves caught up in one of the greatest miracles of all, worshiping a baby who would someday save the world.  

 

Longed for heaven-sent gifts given during leaner times are rarely forgotten; such as a little girl's first Christmas tree and the doll she later gave to her granddaughter...a doll that granddaughter still adores 46 years later.

 

All are proof of how simple acts of love can produce wondrous results.

 

 

 

Michelle Close Mills ©

 

 

 



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