Here I am. The last day of 2010. Six hours into the day, so there are 18 left to tie up all the loose ends of the year gone by.
How can I finish what I need to in one day — clean out all the cobwebs of my life, unclutter the desk, organize all the business records. File them away neatly. I have yet to remove old business records from a previous company — dating back to 2008 — from the filing cabinets in my office to business storage in the garage. I had hoped to do that before the new year. I had hoped to start fresh.
How can I go forward if the drawers are full and there’s no where to go?
Whatever happened to my “get up and go?” What happened to my ability to meet goals? I used to meet every goal I set. I’m not sure where that passion went. I think it’s still there, but weighted down and dragging along behind me instead of driving me. I think about achieving goals and accomplishing things, but the days go by and I watch them as though I’m standing on a bank of a river looking at the water rushing forward and I can’t seem to get even a toe in the current.
Maybe I should resolve to re-find my passion in 2011. Maybe I should start by cleaning out just one drawer. Not looking at the other five. Not looking at the credenza behind my desk. Not looking at the whole office. Just one thing.
Surely, in one day, I can clean out one drawer.
Jillie is still too young to play with Barbie dolls, but at twenty months, she is old enough to delight in their beauty and long tresses and fancy dresses. And besides, her grandmama is having a hard time waiting! I thought of my friend Gloria’s Barbie Christmas Tree she surprised her granddaughter with several years ago, and the spirit mounted, and I just had to do it. With some collecting of Goodwill dolls, some dressing and hair styling, and lots of help from Gloria, my Jillian will have her own Barbie Tree when she comes to visit Christmas Eve.
Here’s the history of The Barbie Tree and the story of two grandmothers who are living Barbie doll dreams through their granddaughters.
THE BARBIE TREE
by Gloria Fortner
She sits on a child’s wooden garden bench in her grandmother’s living room and stares at the decorated Christmas tree. She is five and it is most unusual for her to be silent and she hasn’t said a word in an hour. Is she okay? I’m thinking. Her big blue eyes are larger than ever, her lips are parted, her hands folded in her lap, and her chin lifted up gazing at the tree. Finally, she turns to me and says, “GG, why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because I wanted to surprise you.”
“Where did you get all the Barbies?” she says. “And ALL the pretty dresses!”
“I was shopping at Goodwill and someone had dropped off fourteen Barbies in pretty dresses. I thought they would be beautiful on a Christmas tree and you would love it.”
My granddaughter, Anna Grace, and I have a history of playing with Barbie dolls. Barbies were born after my doll-playing years, and I have two sons. When Anna Grace was three years old, I bought one Barbie doll to see if she was interested. The doll had a Native American look and we called her Sacagawea for the leader of the Lewis and Clark expedition. We soon added an Asian beauty and several traditional Barbies. She was content to play for hours. We dressed/undressed, cut hair, styled hair, added ribbons and clips, named them, and traveled on adventures. They were swimmers, gymnasts, shoppers, and explorers. They had boy dolls—Kens—to escort them to fancy parties. I don’t know which one of us had more fun playing with our vast collection of thrift store Barbies.
After finding the first fourteen dressy dolls, I kept looking for second-hand Barbies in party dresses for the Christmas tree. At Salvation Army and Southern Thrift, I found more dolls and plastic bags filled with sparkling dressy clothes. Bingo! My plan fell into place.
As Christmas approached, excitement built as I dreamed of a beautiful Barbie tree. A local church on Highway 70 had gorgeous “real” trees every Christmas. As soon as they opened for business, my husband and I drove to the church to make the plan a reality.
“Need some help with a tree?” a young man asked.
“Yes, I’m looking for the perfect tree.”
“You’ve come to the right place. What size?”
“Eight to ten feet tall. And fluffy.”
He smiled and showed us a few trees, most of them too skinny.
“No, none of these will work.” I said. “Think of a tree you would put on a cruise ship. Tall, gradually getting wider all the way down to the floor. This special tree is for my granddaughter, and I’m going to fill it with Barbie dolls. The branches have to be strong enough to support the dolls. It’s a surprise.”
“NOW I’VE GOT IT! Come with me. Does it have to be full all the way around?”
“No, one side will be next to a window and one side in a corner.”
We went with him to the back of the tree lot where the larger trees were located. He walked up to this absolutely gorgeous tall, full, fluffy Fraser fir.
“That’s it.” I said.
“It has a bad spot on one side. But I can reduce the price.”
“Not a problem, this is the tree for us, how much?”
Looking around at the other big trees and the big price tags, I held my breath.
“Ninety bucks, I’ll put it on your tree stand and pack it for you.”
“Do you have tree stands to fit this tree? Our stand is too small.”
“Yep, come with me. Are you in a truck?”
“Well, I’ll have to show you how to put the tree stand on when you get home.”
“I can’t manage it when I get home. I need you to attach the tree stand here.”
This is the magic of the Christmas season. I’ll never know how that big tree ever fit in the back of my 2004 Toyota Solara. We put down the back seats, and the young man angled the tree into the car.
“Ma’am, y’all have a nice Christmas with your little granddaughter.”
We generously tipped him. The tree and tree stand were almost dragging the ground when we left the lot, and we were all smiles.
At home we moved all the furniture to make room for the tree. Then we unloaded it exactly as the man told us. Perfect, gorgeous, fluffy tree filled the space and the smell of evergreen lingered in the living room.
That evening and the next morning, I dressed The Barbie Tree. First, I laced white lights among the branches. Next came the dolls. Beautiful, elegant dolls. Forty in all. I tied each doll in place with a ribbon that matched her dress. Anna Grace called the prettiest doll “Janet,” her mother’s name. I dressed Janet in a lovely white formal topped with a deep fushia satin cape with white fur on the headpiece and front openings, and I put her at the top of the tree. A favorite red-haired girl in a bright green dress rested on a branch where Anna Grace could easily reach her. Disney’s Tinkerbell, Snow White, Cinderella, Bell, and Pocahontas graced the tree. Latin, Asian, Black, and Scandinavian beauties added an international flavor of gorgeous girls in glittering dresses of all colors. It made the tree a Miss Universe Pageant.
Now, Anna Grace has come over for grandparent-sitting and the revealing of The Barbie Tree. She smiles big, her eyes bright and glassy with joy, then she puts her pillow on the little bench beside the tree. She lies there and looks at the lights and the dolls—all the pretty dolls.
Anna Grace enjoyed the tree throughout the Christmas season. At year’s end she was delighted to take it down. She placed all the Barbies in a line on the floor, counting each one. It was time to play with the best Christmas decorations ever.
It’s been five years since The Barbie Tree. The family still talks about it. Do we still play Barbie? Occasionally, we do. Sometimes Anna Grace slips into the closet, puts her favorite dolls in the Barbie Volkswagens, and she is off on another adventure, usually shopping or to the beach. They are a connection we will always treasure.
Recently Anna Grace said, “GG, I have beautiful Barbies somewhere at my house, but these thrift store Barbies are the ones we played with the most.”
And GG, Grandmother Gloria, has told the story many times, and at least one other grandmother has taken the bait. The tradition continues with a woman who also had two sons—no daughters to share dolls with—and now her twenty-month-old granddaughter Jillian will have a Barbie tree this year!
a better legacy, a better way to be remembered?
“She was a fiery competitor without an ego, and she was a public figure who won the private confidence of virtually everyone she met.” [Mike Baker, Associated Press, The Tennessean]
Elizabeth Edwards (July 3, 1949 — December 7, 2010)
Thirty years ago today, John Lennon was shot and killed.Today, we remember this man — a peace symbol during war.
Three years ago Winston Rand [my late husband] wrote a blog piece about Lennon and “Imagine” on Nobody Asked.
May we read and remember and consider…
Post by Winston Rand:
When the title for the post came to me, I re-read the lyrics and listened to John Lennon’s original. Like its author, and indeed like much of his music, Imagine has many detractors. Most of those do not go below the surface of the words and envision, perchance to dream, of Lennon’s imaginary world of peace, love, and harmony. Drug induced vision? Perhaps. Idealistic? Sure. Impossible? Of course. Worth working toward? Absolutely.
If you take the time to really read the words, all of the words, and think about the world that Lennon talked about, Imagine depicts a human state that is quite close to that espoused by all the great religions of the world. John Lennon became a lightning rod for peace during the Vietnam War. Consider what has happened to our world since 2000. Then read the verses again. We need a lightning rod for peace and sanity in this world gone mad. Imagine…
Imagine there’s no Heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace
You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world
You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one
When you go to Tupelo to have lunch with a gathering of old girlfriends from high school whom you’ve not seen for forty-three years, how do you go? When you have your GPS programmed and Mapquest directions sitting beside you, but there’s a Christmas parade that has shut down the main street you must use to get there, what do you do? Well, after you cuss and turn the wrong way, you figure out you need to be on the same side of Main that the restaurant is on, so you get there and you stop at a Honda dealership. You park your Subaru out front and you go in with a map in your hand, and they know you are not there to buy a car. They try to give you directions and then see the blankness in your eyes, and so a handsome salesman says, “Follow me. Just inch around to the back and I’ll be in a red car — just follow me and I’ll take you on backroads and get you there.” And so, of course, you follow him. And you grin big because you know you are in Mississippi because people in other places just don’t do nice things like this. So you stay close to him and he takes you there — your own private red-car escort parallel to Santa’s red sleigh in the parade — and you thank him profusely.
And then you recognize Gene, the husband of an old friend, whom you’ve never seen before, on the sidewalk in front of La Meson D’or. You know him because you’ve seen his picture on Facebook and you have no qualms about stopping and rolling down your window and shouting, “Hey Gene.” And he helps you find a parking place.
And so you are one of the first ones there, and you go in, and one by one, you greet old friends, and everybody looks the same, and they are all so sweet, just like you remember them. And they all know about you because of Facebook — they know your husband died, that you have a Harley guy, that you work at writing, and they have seen videos of your grandson Hardy walking on Hardy land. And you know all about them.
A few still live in Cleveland, where you all graduated from Cleveland High School; some drove down from Memphis; some drove up from Jackson; and Jenne flew in from Nebraska. They were kind enough to plan this gathering in Tupelo because it’s 3.75 hours from your house, which is fairly close, comparatively speaking.
And so you talk and eat and everybody gets dessert. You decide that you — the girls in the class — don’t look old, but the boys do, and you think it’s because you moisturize and they don’t. Or you dye, and they don’t. And then you play a game…that possibly everybody is getting too old to play because you have to think fast, but it is great fun. Everyone has brought a wrapped Christmas ornament, and you all sit in a circle holding a gift, and Karen reads “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Every time she says “the” you pass the gift two to the right, and every time she says “a” you pass the gift once to the left. There are lots of screw-ups, but you all end up with an ornament to hang on your tree and remember…
These are the girls you grew up with. The girls you took French with, the smart girls you were in senior math class with, the girls you were with when the president was shot, the girls you slid down the levee on cardboard sheets with, the girls you went to the pool with and took sunbaths with, the girls you went on church trips with and skipped Training Union with, the girls you rode around town with, the girls you walked across a pipe over Jones Bayou with, the girls you listened to the Beatles with, the girls you gave surprise parties for, the girls you met in the bathroom during sixth period and got in trouble with Coach Stevens, the girls you walked across the Walter Sillers stage with. The girls you knew when times were innocent.
You’ve all walked the paths of life since — experienced the loss of parents and childhood homes, divorce, death, illnesses, surgeries. You’ve maybe raised children, have grandchildren. You have careers, and some of you are retired.
You are women. And you are not the same as you were when you were girls at Cleveland High. Yet you are the same, and you always will be to each other. And you hope that you can gather like this again and again and have much more laughter and togetherness because you appreciate it now more than ever.