Judith Lautner (judith) wrote,
Judith Lautner

Christmases past

I wanted a ballerina doll. A tall thin beauty with toes that pointed, that you could bend to point. The doll came dressed in a tutu, pink probably, but it was mostly the toes that I wanted.

I asked my father for this doll in a letter. I don't know how specific I was. I felt I was very clear, but I was maybe nine or ten at the time. I don't remember. So when the package arrived I shook it. I heard a rustle, like a tutu, and dared to hope. Both my sister Mary and I had asked for these dolls and we both thought maybe that's what was in there.

On Christmas eve, our family had a tradition of opening just one present. A kind of whetting of the appetite, perhaps, or maybe assuaging, finding out what was in just one of those presents. Mary and I both wanted to open that package from our father.

We ripped it open and foundstraw hats. The rustle was the straw. He couldn't get us the doll, I thought, he had to get us this cheap thing. I don't know what my father's financial situation was then, but I had the impression he was trying to get off cheaply, was inclined to find a cheap substitute for whatever we wanted.

Later, when I was in college, I asked him for the Schnabel edition of the Beethoven sonatas, a large fat book edited by one of the foremost interpreters of Beethoven's music. I was clear this time, I know. I told my father I wanted this specific edition, no other, no substitute. I remember his huffy reply, something like, I know the difference. I got what I wanted that year but paid for it with that bit of acrimony, that almost resentful response from my father.

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