Raggedy Ann and Christmas


This little girl, Raggedy Ann, has a very special story to tell you this Christmas. Here she is, happily sitting on the bed in my guest room, with the quilt that my Mama hand-quilted beneath her, and the pillow that Mama also hand-quilted supporting her as she waits to share a very special story with you.

Raggedy Ann wasn’t always faded and mended, as you can tell if you look very closely at her little legs and the sutures that were lovingly placed to mend the fabric of her legs many years ago. You can’t see underneath her faded flowery dress and dull white pinafore to the faded red heart that says, “I Love You.” You also can’t see the back of her head where her orange yarn hair has fallen out with the years, leaving a bald spot at her crown. Her black button eyes once sat close to her face, while today one of them is extended and hanging on by a thread. But if you look at her smile, you will see that Ann is happy and content, and she is safe with her little girl, Jennie Lou.

Ann was a Christmas gift to Jennie Lou for her first Christmas when she was less than a year old. Jennie Lou doesn’t remember the day that Ann appeared under the Christmas tree, but her mama told her about how she ran (yes, she had been walking since she was seven months old!) to the tree, grabbed Ann up into her little arms, and hugged her tightly. That Christmas, Ann was actually taller than Jennie Lou was, and her mama joyfully related the memory of Jennie Lou holding this wonderful doll in her lap, a doll who completely enveloped the little toddler in her rag doll arms.

That first Christmas was the beginning of a lifelong friendship between Ann and Jennie Lou. Ann slept with the little girl every night, and even had a pillow of her own to rest her head. She said her prayers with Jennie Lou, as the little girl would fold Ann’s hands together as she did her own little hands to pray each night. Jennie Lou showed Ann the  portrait of Jesus holding a baby lamb that hung above her bed, and when she was old enough, she told Ann all about Jesus, the good shepherd. Every morning the little child would pull up the dress and pinafore from Ann’s body to look at her red heart, knowing that the words, “I Love You” were still there, long before she was able to read the words for herself. She knew what the heart meant, and she loved her Raggedy Ann with all her heart.

Jennie Lou grew and grew, and in a few years she was taller than Ann. Her love for her beloved doll grew and grew as well, as they shared adventures, went for rides in Jennie Lou’s doll carriage, rocked in the big wicker rocking chair on the back porch together, made blanket forts underneath the dining room table, and went outside together to look for good Thinking Places. Ann absorbed the child’s tears when she was sad or angry, received many hugs and kisses along with lots of loving, and listened to stories of adventures that Ann wasn’t allowed to accompany her on. Ann never stopped smiling. Her love for her little girl was constant and true. Her “I Love You” heart always reminded her that there was a special bond between her and Jennie Lou. She knew that she was loved as much as she loved.

One day when Jennie Lou was a teenager, she noticed that Ann was fading and becoming very fragile. She couldn’t bear to part with Ann, but she was afraid that Ann’s fabric arms and legs were at risk of more injury and becoming torn. She lovingly wrapped Ann in a large towel and placed her in a cedar chest in her bedroom. Every now and then she would open the chest and take Ann out for a visit, and then tenderly put Ann back into the cedar chest where she knew she would be safe.

The years passed. Jennie Lou became a mother and had two sons of her own. While she didn’t dare give Ann to her little boys to play with, she gave them each a Raggedy Andy doll of their own, making sure that each doll had the same red heart as Ann had. She wanted her little sons to know that Andy loved them as Ann loved her. Somewhere along the way, the little boys outgrew their Andy dolls, and they were donated to charity for another child to have. Star Wars action figures, Transformers, and GI Joes took center stage as the little boys grew, and the Andys were soon forgotten.

But Jennie Lou never forgot about her Ann. Ann traveled with Jennie Lou through her life with move after move, from one home to another, where she was always safely tucked away in the cedar chest, never far from Jennie Lou’s bedroom, no matter where she lived.

There came a time in Jennie Lou’s life when she feared for Ann. Jennie Lou was going through a trying and painful period of her life in which she feared for those possessions that she treasured the most. One day, in desperation, she took Ann out of the cedar chest, wrapped her in a blanket, and whisked her out of her house without anyone noticing, taking her to visit a friend. This particular friend, named Dena, had a bedroom in her home that was her Raggedy Ann room. Jennie Lou had visited it and had told Dena all about Ann and how special she was. Dena offered to keep Ann for her until Jennie Lou’s life returned to normal, and Jennie Lou took her up on her offer. Jennie Lou and Dena made a spot for Ann among all the other Anns in the room, making sure she was comfortable and happy. With tears flowing down her cheeks, Jennie Lou kissed Ann goodbye and promised her that nothing bad would ever happen to her.

A few years passed. Jennie Lou’s life led her down a lovely and bright new path, the sun came back out in her life, and she moved into a new house of her very own. She was very happy in her home, starting a new and fresh life, when surprise of surprises! Dena came to visit her one day, carrying Ann in her arms. Dena told her that it was time for Ann to come back home.

Together, they placed Ann on the guest room bed, surrounded by photos of Jennie Lou’s family, posters and pictures of happy times and places adorning the walls. Ann sweetly smiled as she rested her head against the comfy pillow, and her red heart underneath her faded dress and pinafore just about burst with happiness and love.

Ann was now sixty-eight years old, the same age as Jennie Lou.

Ann was home.

And so was Jennie Lou.

Raggedy Ann and Jennie Lou wish all of you a blessed Christmas, filled with love and happiness as we once again welcome the Christ Child into our lives! May our hearts always beat with Christ’s love, just as Ann’s has all these many years.


The Christmas Doll



I wrote this for my blog in 2008. While talking to some friends recently about going to Rich’s Department Store at Christmastime when we were growing up, I remembered this and found it in my archives. This is one of my favorite Christmas memories. Enjoy!

I was five years old and Christmas was getting close. My mother told me that I needed to think about what I wanted Santa Claus to bring me, and that we would go downtown to sit on Santa’s lap once I decided what I would tell him. It didn’t take much thinking for me. All I wanted was a doll that could walk and talk. Nothing else interested me.

Mama dressed me up in my Sunday dress and shoes and bundled me in the winter coat she had made for me. We walked three blocks from our house to the trolley stop in Decatur to ride the bus six miles to Rich’s Department Store in downtown Atlanta. Once there, we easily found the line of children waiting to talk to Santa, and took our place with them. My turn came, and I pranced right up to Santa, climbing onto his lap. When he asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I told him – a doll that walks and talks. Is there anything else you want Santa to bring you? No, thank you, just a doll that walks and talks.

From Santa’s lap, we made our way to Rich’s toy department. Mama and I began looking at dolls to see if we could find the one I wanted. A pretty saleslady approached us and offered to help. I told her what I wanted. She smiled and said, “Well, young lady, I’m not sure we have a doll that walks and talks, but I have lots of dolls that I can show you.” The first one she took off the shelf was a doll that could walk. She showed me how to hold onto its middle and move my hands to propel one leg and then the other forward. The doll was pretty, but she was stiff and couldn’t really walk. She wasn’t the one I wanted. The next doll was one that could talk. But her lips were painted onto her face, and I had to turn her completely upside down to make her chirp a whiny “Ma-ma” from somewhere in the vicinity of her stomach. That wasn’t talking. This doll wasn’t the one I wanted, either. I wanted a doll that could walk and talk.

The saleslady showed me doll after doll, demonstrating what each one could do, but none was the doll I had asked Santa for. Finally, in desperation, she said she had one more, but she didn’t think this doll was right for me, either. Into my arms she placed a big soft baby doll, dressed in pink, with light brown painted hair and blue eyes with real hair eyelashes and eyelids that blinked open and shut as I moved her head. She was soft and plump, and the size of a real baby. She was beautiful! But she doesn’t walk or talk, both my mother and the saleslady reminded me. Thoughts of walking, talking dolls flew out of my mind for a moment as I held this wonderful baby doll. I gently handed her back to the saleslady, and she placed her back on the toy shelf. I had told Santa that I wanted a doll that walks and talks. I knew his elves could make a doll for me that walked and talked. As Mama and I left Rich’s, I counted on Santa to bring me what I really wanted for Christmas.

On Christmas morning, I was awake early to see what Santa had brought me. To my surprise, he had not left a doll that walks or talks under our tree, but the baby doll I had held so tenderly at Rich’s. I gently picked her up and carried her to Daddy’s rocking chair to rock and cuddle until the rest of the family woke up to see what Santa had left at our house. I don’t remember wishing for a doll that walks and talks ever again!

My Christmas doll wasn’t the one I thought I wanted, but she was the one I needed, and she needed me. She couldn’t walk or talk, but that didn’t matter to me. I named her Cathy and loved and cared for her for many years, while she loved me back by simply being soft and huggable, and by gazing at me with those crystal blue blinking eyes.

My wish for us all this Christmas is that we remember that it isn’t getting what we think we want that makes our lives complete. What makes life wonderful is discovering the “baby dolls” we meet along our way who need our love. And it is in our response to them that we become more caring, giving, and compassionate human beings.