A friend of mine has granted me permission to tell one of the saddest Christmas tales I have ever heard. Hilarious. But tragic.
It goes like this.
Once upon a time in western
This little family was part of a MUCH LARGER family and this Large Family was in the habit of having Large Family Gatherings for the holidays. Very Large Family Festivities which were often very festive but occasionally somewhat tiring, if you can picture it.
So one year when Kate was about 7 or 8 her Mom and Dad decided they wanted to have a Simple Family Christmas, just themselves and their girls, at home. Not only would they have a small and simple Christmas, but they would have an Old-Fashioned one, with all sorts of cooking experiments involving open fires and heavy iron pans. Kate gives the impression it looked like a lot of work and she didn’t really understand why it was so important. She wasn’t all that into the cooking anyway. What she wanted most in the world for Christmas that year was a Strawberry Shortcake Doll. Shiny red hair, freckles, giant head, red dress, striped green legs, pink hat, strawberry perfume – she was at the top of Kate’s wish list.
You can imagine how thrilled Kate was to receive a Strawberry Shortcake Doll on Christmas morning. All through the weird traditional meal (which I’ve always imagined was oddly scorched and raw by turns, although that’s probably just my imagination) she kept her new doll near her and after the meal, with the family all crowded around the fire roaring in the fireplace, she held her Strawberry Shortcake in her arms and was content.
Until her parents decided to add one more tradition to the day: roasting chestnuts on an open fire. Mom and Dad threw some chestnuts in a pan and stuck them in the fire, preparing to enjoy this picturesque treat in true Old-Fashioned style. No one had mentioned to them that if you don’t score the chestnuts, steam builds up inside them. Since their chestnuts were unscored, steam built up, and the next thing Kate knew, roasted chestnuts were zinging all around the living room like little comets. Zing! Pop! They flew past, knocking into hard things, and the smell of singed material began to fill the room. Her mom and dad and sister started yelling and scrambling, ducking to avoid the flying hot chestnuts and to prevent scorch marks.
Suddenly Kate smelled melted plastic and hot strawberries. She looked down and realized she was looking through the top of Strawberry Shortcake’s head, right down into the hollow plastic mystery of it. A flying chestnut had landed on the doll’s head and melted a hole right through it. Like a comet landing in a snowbank.
Here comes the saddest part – it always makes my sister very sad to hear this part.
NO ONE REPLACED HER DOLL. Kate kept that hole-in-the-head Strawberry Shortcake for some time after that day, and in fact well remembers the rattling sound of that chestnut rolling around inside.
So. Roasting chestnuts on an open fire isn’t nearly the dreamy peaceful activity it’s always made out to be.
And somebody needs to get Kate a new Strawberry Shortcake doll!