Christmas with Barbie 1964 to 1968
I was five years old when my mom showed me an advertisement for Mattel’s Barbie doll wearing that iconic black and white bathing suit, which had already been out since the late 50s. It was my first memorable exposure and I was immediately taken in by the grown up looking doll.
That Christmas I received my first “Barbie,” though I’m pretty sure she was a knock off. I carried her wherever I went, combing her long blond pony tail and dressing her in scraps of fabric leftover from Mom’s sewing projects. One day I brought her to school, and rather than keeping her in my desk and only playing with her during recess and lunch, I couldn’t resist pulling her out from the cubby under my seat. Sister Marie Louisa had eyes like an eagle and swooped down, snatching the doll from me, declaring that she would give it to a little girl who deserved it. I watched in horror as she sat the doll on her desk, playing with it before resuming her work.
For the rest of the day, my eyes were glued to Sister’s desk. When the final bell rang, I walked past my doll in doleful silence, too afraid to ask for its return. The next day, I was convinced Sister would forgive me and return my prized possession, but to my dismay, she had put her in the storage closet along with all the other children’s toys she had taken during the year. Every time she opened that closet, I could see the little figure. And so it was until the end of the school year. Finally, on the last day of school, Sister decided to clean out her closet and returned all the students’ toys. I was delighted to have “Barbie” back and sat on the curb in front of the school walkway developing imaginary scenarios with my long lost pal while the other kids skipped rope and played hop skotch, chattering excitedly about what fun summer was going to be.
It wasn’t until a couple of years later that I received another Barbie for Christmas. This time she was a real Barbie, the first poseable one. I was thrilled with her eyeliner, Anna hairdo and her legs’ ability to move. My mom had stayed up nights making clothes for her from kits one could buy specifically for Barbie sized dolls. I also brought her to school, but was careful not to take her out during classtime. Unfortunately, the smooth rubbery consistency of the malleable limbs were too much temptation for my younger siblings and eventually, they were chewed away, making poor Barbie a double amputee.
The following Christmas, I received Barbie’s cousin, Francie, a groovy teenager who was not poseable, but she wore a very cool two piece bathing suit and had long, platinum blond hair. My somewhat precocious brothers had received GI Joe dolls that same year which were jointed and could be posed in any manner of strange stances. The boys would sneak poor Francie onto the battleground they had created, doing unmentionable things to her with the GI Joes, whose positions could put a seasoned porn star to shame. I found myself continually rescuing her from such harrowing situations, hiding her in a secret place in my closet.
Eventually, despite my attempts to protect her, Francie was finally destroyed by my little brother who had discovered her secret hiding place. Undaunted by the destruction of my earlier dolls, I continued to collect Barbie, her family and friends longer than most girls played with dolls. And if you were to dig in my attic today, you might find a Christmas Barbie still in the original box and an original harem one piece outfit from 1968 along with a tiny pair of white plastic square toed shoes.