PROJECT RUNWAY: BARBIE EDITION
My sisters’ kids have been having a lot of babies. It’s a Catholic thing. And I am the crazy aunt who buys them all presents.
Fifteen of these kids live in Buffalo. So my mission is to buy gifts for three boys and twelve girls from the ages of two to nine. I’m going broke being Santa Claus, but they’re all so adorable and they love me. As soon as I alight from my car when I visit, they yell, “Aunt Terry!” And they jump on me with hugs. “Run with us,” they say. “Let’s play tag—you’re IT!” Or, “We’re putting you in jail!” And two different ones take my hands and march me away.
Hannah is eight and sturdy with blonde curly hair pulled back. She reads three levels higher than her grade, which is 3rd. She’s not easily ruffled, unlike her three younger sisters and her cousin Molly who has huge blue eyes and even lighter blonde wavy hair. Molly is seven with pierced ears and she gets wound up very easily. So do her two younger sisters, all of whom have halos of curly brown hair. “I’m having a sugar meltdown,” Molly told me one day. Every girl does Irish dancing, and excels at high pitched screaming, especially when I’m chasing them.
I was short on money last month before my Buffalo visit, so I went to the Dollar Store. I found 12 dolls that were low rent Barbies with long platinum hair in a ponytail and glamorous pastel gowns. I also bought them little mermaid dolls with purple hair, fruit flavored chapstick, hair clips, sidewalk chalk and stickers. Maybe these were not as politically correct or feminist or ecologically wise as I would have hoped, but I was in survival mode before this insane family trip to Buffalo where I’d be taking care of my 95 yr. old Mom who has Alzheimer’s and I’d be seeing about 40 relatives at the family reunion.
I persuaded my husband to mail off my huge box of presents for kids; I’d gotten each boy a robot.
Finally in Buffalo, the day came when all the kids gathered around to receive their gifts from Aunt Terry. Though for days Molly had been asking me, “Aunt Terry, just tell me one thing that’s in the box. I promise I won’t tell anyone.”
I stood at the head of the picnic table, then opened the box and told them to sit down or they wouldn’t get anything. Their Moms took photos and I pulled out the dolls, hearing a collective gasp: “Barbies!” as I handed them each one. I never got to have a Barbie myself because they arrived after my time. My Mom only gave me a rotten Tiny Tears who peed out all the grape juice I gave her.
“It’s like Christmas!” little Megan said. They loved their mermaids too, and I’d bought each of them a princess tote to hold all their treasures in since often the day after the gift giving, one of them, usually Molly, will come running up to me. “I lost all my toys, Aunt Terry. Can I have more?”
“There are no more,” I have to tell her.
But that day, all the girls clutched their Princess bags with their dolls, mermaids, and Snow White chapsticks, but shortly afterwards, 3 yr. old Kate began to cry.
“What’s wrong?” I asked. I then noticed she had pulled off the rubber band holding the doll’s ponytail together and the Chinese manufacturer had only given the doll hair plugs around the top and sides of her rubber scalp, not in the middle.
“My doll is bald!” Kate yelled. A few of the other girls yanked their dolls’ ponytail holders off and wailed, “Mine’s bald too!”
“No, they’re just the type of doll who prefers ponytails!” I said. I felt bad, but my sister in law Bonnie saved the day.
“Let’s have a fashion show with the dolls!” she said. So we all sat in a circle on the lawn.
“What’s your doll’s name?” I asked Megan, who just graduated from kindergarten.
“Tiffany!” she said.
“Now presenting Tiffany,” I said, as Megan walked her across the dirt runway.
“Tiffany is wearing a red organza evening gown with taffeta trim from New York City!” Bonnie announced. Megan looked proud till the tenuous stitching at the back of the gown ripped and out came Tiffany’s butt.
“Her dress tore!” Megan cried.
“Don’t worry; I’ll fix it!” I said and began pinning the doll’s dress up the back with tiny hair clips of green and pink.
“My doll’s butt is coming out too! And she has no underpants on!” four year old Hope complained. Bonnie and I spent the next few minutes repairing evening gowns with hair clips and repairing alopecia with strategically styled hairdos. We were fine till the next crisis hit.
“Her leg fell off!” Hannah squealed.
“Oh, no,” I said. “Let’s get her directly to surgery. She needs a hip replacement.” Later an arm came off, but luckily some of the dolls were EMT’s and we had learned how to cope with trauma by then.