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Friday, 17 January 2014

The Perfect Two Dollars

By Sondra Terry

She's about 60 years old. Her once-white dress has faded to grayish-yellow yet her bodice, mid-calf boots and heart-shaped ornament held between her hands remain bright red.

Unable to stand on her own, she leans against the spine of a book on my bookcase. A little more than seven inches tall including the headdress with its colorful appliqued flowers, this cloth doll, handmade in Hungary, is one of my treasures.

When I look at her, I see more than a doll. I’ll try to explain why.

I was nearing my 11th birthday when I first saw her. It was in the United Nations gift shop while on a school trip with my fifth grade class.

That morning in late April was gorgeous. The air felt light and cool when I was about to leave to catch the bus for school. Instead, Mama suggested we walk to school, about a mile away. And we did. But a short distance from the school, Mama stopped and said it would be best if I went the rest of the way with two of my friends who waved to us from across the road.

Before I joined them, she handed me a little change purse. “Here, buy something special as my gift to you.”

Two dollars! What would I buy? I had no idea what might be in a gift shop at the United Nations.

The guided tour at the United Nations was interesting but for a group of 10 and 11-year-olds, most impressive was the General Assembly Hall - big, spacious and so new.

Afterwards, we went to the gift shop. It was filled with goodies: handcrafted items from around the world, miniature flags representing the member states of the United Nations, picture postcards and such.

I walked around the shop looking here and there trying not to miss anything. Then, there she was, a small cloth doll in a white dress with a red bodice and red boots. Beneath a delicate headdress, I saw brown hair made of single threads pulled back into a braid.

I was enchanted by her even before I saw the little tag that read "Made in Hungary." Hungary, where my mother was born and lived for almost 15 years before coming to America.

I picked up the doll and looked for a price tag. There was none. Oh, how I wanted this doll, but I had no idea if I had enough money to buy her.

I carefully held the doll in my hand as I joined a half dozen of my classmates standing in line at the cashier's desk. Nervously, I waited in line. What if two dollars wasn’t enough? This doll came from Hungary. Mama came from Hungary. I had to have this doll.

The line moved quickly. Soon, it was my turn at the cashier's desk. "I want this doll. I don't know how much it costs," I said.

The cashier was short and grey-haired like my mom and she had a soft voice, like my mom. "Let’s check the tag.”

I watched her.

"Well, I see it’s from Hungary,” she said as she flipped over the tag. “I don’t see a price. I’ll need to check.” She started to walk away.

I called to her, "I have two dollars." She turned back to me. I told her I had only two dollars and I hoped it was enough. I told her I really wanted the doll because it was made where my mom was born and grew up. And I told her my mom gave me two dollars to buy something special, a gift from her.

I felt my face getting warmer. I was embarrassed for having said all that. So, I tried to cover up by saying, "I can look for something else.” I handed the little doll to the cashier.

"Not necessary,” she said. “Two dollars is perfect. That’s exactly what it costs.”

I didn’t understand how she knew that but I handed her the dollar bills. And she gently wrapped the doll in white tissue paper and put her in a paper bag. She smiled as she handed me the bag. “She surely is a beauty. Now, you take good care of her and you'll have her for many years."

I’ve had her for about sixty years, and whenever I look at her, I think of Mama and I think of the lovely cashier who said, “Two dollars is perfect.”

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Your touching story brought tears to my eyes. What a wonderful cashier who understood just how important that doll was to you.

A sweet story of a caring woman. And I am sure you have "paid it forward" many times in your life, as we all do.

What a tender story and how well written! My throat choked up.

A sweet and tender story.

It is a touching story, so well written. You made me visualize all the characters--you as a little girl, your mother, the doll, and the cashier--as I read the story. Thank you!

Your story touched my heart, the kindnesses people share especially with children goes on and on and on. Thank you.

A lovely poignant story.

What a priceless story - worth a lot more than the two dollars!

Oh, such a lovely story. Simply priceless.
Thank you !

Well done! Wonderfully told.



You make us all remember how long a kindness stays with us.

I am a lucky lady to call Sondra my friend.

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