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Tiny Dancer

I think I was 5 or 6 (but maybe as old as 7 or 8). It was Christmas morning — very early Christmas morning. My sisters and I got up at our usual wee hours time. In hindsight I’m guessing it was around 5:00 AM. We’d get up and go downstairs as quietly as possible, which probably wasn’t all that quiet.

We knew well and respected the Christmas morning rules. We were allowed to open our stockings, and our stockings only, until both of my parents were up. And for Dad, that included having at least one cup of coffee in him. Perked coffee. Coffee that took a lifetime to make, or at least 15 minutes, which was close enough to a lifetime for little kids on Christmas morning.

So on this particular Christmas morning my sisters and I were downstairs enjoying the thrill of the stockings. (Watch for more on my family’s stockings in a new post.) But my parents were sleeping. And sleeping. We knew we couldn’t wake them too early (was the rule 6:00 AM?), but we were getting anxious. So my oldest sister had the brilliant idea of organizing the presents under the tree, piling up a stack for each of us so we could at least see the size, shape, and number of boxes. I’m sure I didn’t argue with the idea.

We crawled under the tree, gathered and sorted, piled and stacked.

Then…..oh, no! The box on top of my stack fell over! When it did, music started playing. I was scared, ashamed, and guilty. I knew we were wrong and shouldn’t have been messing with the packages. I ran upstairs to my parents’ room crying. Mom woke up pretty quickly.

I don’t remember what happened next, but I vividly remember the amazing music box I got for Christmas that year. This picture is the closest thing I could find.
music-box

The base was an inexpensive metal, but it was embossed with a design that I thought beautiful. You could lift off the lid and put a few little things inside, but that wasn’t important to me. I don’t remember what song the music box played, but I might recognize it if I heard it. Or I might not.

The top part of the music box was AMAZING!! It was made of a heavy duty plastic, but it was as good as glass for me. And inside the glass? Inside was a beautiful ballerina, complete with a starched cloth tutu. Her arms were raised in perpetually graceful motions, but her legs — they were the most amazing part of all. Her legs were hinged at the knees. When you wound up the music box, she twirled around, and as she twirled she also went up and down on a little stick that kept her centered on her tiny stage. When she was at the lowest point of her dance, her knees were bent. At the highest point, she was dancing on the tips of her toe shoes. The ballerina would plie and jump, twist and turn, plie and jump. I loved it.

I’ve seen jewelry box/music box combos that have a ballerina that pops up and twirls when you open the lid, but they were all stilted and ugly compared to mine. I’ve never seen another one anything like it, only this picture to confirm my remembrances.

I believe that music box stayed in a place of honor on top of my dresser for at least a decade (two lifetimes to a child), and worked perfectly that entire time. My ballerina music box was the first really important Christmas present I remember.

Your turn – what’s one of your early Christmas present memories?

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4 comments to Tiny Dancer

  • This is a very early Christmas memory of my middle brother. Gene never seemed overly excited about Christmas; he was the kind of kid who had more fun making things than playing with toys. I was so young that year that I really didn’t understand how Christmas worked but Gene was up early and I followed him. He picked up an unwrapped doll and handed it to me.”This must be for you,” he said. I just stared at the doll with the tiny teeth; she was more than a little scary. Gene began unwrapping a large, tall box with his name on it. When the paper came off he whooped and got down on his knees to pull the pieces of metal out of the box. There were written instructions included but he left them on the floor and began building a bridge? a steamroller? a tower? Maybe all those things. I never saw my brother happier than the Christmas morning he found his Erector Set under the tree. I’ll have to ask him how he remembers it.
    PS I never warmed up to the doll with teeth.

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