Monday, December 26, 2016

A Box for Christmas - A Childhood Memory

During many childhood summers I spent a week at the home of my cousin, Belinda, who was just nine months older than me.  One particular summer when I was perhaps seven or eight, I remember that her mother/my aunt bought each of us a book of paper dolls,
probably with the hope that it would occupy us and keep us quiet and out of her hair for an hour or two.

If you are my age and played with paper dolls you probably remember that they were sold in books about 9" x 12" with a cover and four or six single-sided pages of clothes.  The dolls were printed on the heavier cardboard covers and die cut so they could be punched out (with care) or so that a few snips with scissors would free them from the page.

The doll clothes themselves needed to be cut out with scissors.  Unlike the clothes above, the ones for our dolls had tabs at the shoulders and sides which we folded over to hold the clothes in place.

After an hour or two of cutting, Belinda and I each had a stack of clothes, but we had nowhere to keep them safe.  I told my aunt I needed a box.  When she told me she didn't have a box, I must have been insistent that I needed one because she finally said, "I'll give you a box for Christmas."  Though that didn't satisfy the immediate need, I was happy enough and agreed that a box for Christmas would be great.  I don't remember what we did the our dolls and collection of clothes.

As a child I loved boxes.  Not thin cardboard, fold-down, collapsible gift boxes, but real boxes, sturdy boxes -- hefty paper-covered cardboard or wooden cigar boxes; lidded pasteboard boxes with glued and reinforced edges; candy boxes; wooden cheese boxes, or even lidded cardboard cheese boxes; wooden Shaker boxes, wooden recipe boxes.  Good boxes.  Beautiful, useful boxes.  I was always on the lookout for a better school supply box, one that was sturdy and wouldn't crush or break apart.  (Those cheap plastic boxes children use these days were not yet being mass-produced.)  I don't know how or where my affinity for boxes developed but it continues to this day.  I find it hard to walk away from an attractive, sturdy box with a lid.  Boxes have so much potential.

Six months had elapsed between that summer day we cut out and played with paper dolls and Christmas Day.  Belinda and her family arrived with gifts in hand for all the nieces and nephews/cousins.  We were all gathered in our living room exchanging gifts.  I was sitting on the floor and my aunt handed down a wrapped gift with ribbon and bow.  When I unwrapped the square box I found it empty.  My aunt and cousin laughed and reminded me that I'd agreed on an empty box for Christmas.  I was chagrined.  I was surprised to receive an empty box.  I'd forgotten about the paper dolls, but the worst part was that the box was one of those cheap, flimsy, collapsible ones.  That summer day when I asked for a box I was imagining a sturdy, elongated candy box with a fitted lid, just the right size for paper dolls and their clothes.  After Belinda and her mom (along with everyone else in the room) stopped laughing, my aunt handed me another gift.  I have no memory what it was.

Isn't it strange that some events nestle (or wedge) into our memories -- and others wisp away like smoke?


Copyright ©2016 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.


  1. (As you can see, I'm behind in my blog reading!) I LOVED LOVED LOVED paper dolls. I think I enjoyed cutting them out as much as playing with them. I used to keep mine in the pages of old magazines. Just before I outgrew paper dolls, the newer ones came in a folder with a pocket for holding the doll and her paper clothes. Funny, I didn't remember any of this until I read this blog.

    1. Oh, it takes a long time to catch up -- and I don't think I'm ever caught up on my blog reading (let alone on leaving comments on blogs). Like you, I thought it was more fun to cut the clothes than to play with the dolls. I don't think paper dolls were any general favorite with my cousin and me so we probably played with them only occasionally. I don't remember the folders with a pocket. (Which probably means you're much younger than me, Wendy.)


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