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.]