She strolled purposefully down the narrow walk, looking intently into the shops’ windows. The glass reflected the early morning sun as Irene paused at one of her favorite places to visit. She was looking for that very special birthday gift, the gift that Sarah would love more than any other gift she would receive on her special day. Irene’s long skirts brushed the ground stirring up the dust that coated her low-healed high-buttoned shoes. As she opened the door to the shop, Miss Jamison greeted Irene with a wide smile that was infectious.
“Mrs. Fisher, how nice to see. How are you?”
Irene returned the smile. “I am just fine. And you? Have you had many visitors today?”
“It’s still early. I’m sure it will pick up soon. What can I help you with today? Something for yourself?”
“No, not today. Today is for Sarah. It’s her birthday next week and I’m looking for something different. Do you have any ideas?”
“Actually, I do. I have many unique things. Have you considered a hat? How old will Sarah be? It seems like the last time I saw her, she was just getting interested in dresses.”
Irene laughed. She wished Sarah was interested in dresses and girl things. But Sarah was a bit of a tomboy. Irene tried to make her little girl more like the other little girls in her school. But Sarah was an independent thinker and knew what she liked and what she didn’t. Dresses were something that she only wore when she absolutely had to. “I think I would need to get her into a dress before I consider a hat,” she laughed.
Miss Jamison chucked. “Oh, she’ll grow out of it eventually. They always do. It just takes some little girls longer than others.”
Irene smiled and continued to move about Miss Jamison’s shop, touching this material or fingering that lace. “Beautiful!” she commented.
Irene followed the aisle to the back of the store where Miss Jamison had a curio shelf filled with odds and ends – some from far away, some from long ago. Irene’s light brown eyes drifted over the shelves. What would Sarah like? In the corner of a high shelf sat a porcelain doll. Irene was mesmerized by its beauty. The China was flawless and color, so natural. Her high rouged cheekbones gave her an aristocratic look. Glorious auburn luckies cascaded down her back and over her narrow shoulders. The thick curls reminded her of Sarah long brown, soft locks. The lips were bright red but inviting. It was the eyes that had caused Irene to gasp. Crystal blue with the longest dark eyelashes that she had ever seen on a doll. She could tell the dress was made from the finest material with lace accents along the edge. Billowing skirts were pinched at the waist identifying a narrow bodice that ended with a jeweled neckline. Perched on top of head was a wide brimmed fashionable hat with a matching ribbon. The outfit was finished with white gloves, laced boots, and a parasol. Irene stared. She extended her hand and was able to touch the hemline of the billowing skirt. The doll was just out of reach.
Miss Jamison walked up behind Irene, startling her. “Beautiful, isn’t she?”
Irene could only nod.
“Would you like to see her?”
“Yes, I would. She looks very expensive.”
“She is made from porcelain and the clothes are all handmade. We just got her in the shop.”
Irene took the doll in both hands. She was even more beautiful up close.
“Look at the details in her face. Have you ever seen such fine work? And look at this… May I?” Miss Jamison carefully took the doll into her hands and moved the doll’s arms. The legs moved back and forth as though they were walking, while the head moved side to side. The eyes were looking around as the head moved and appeared to blink.
“Her eyes will open and close, too,” said Miss Jamison.
She held the doll out to Irene. Irene hesitated and then accepted the doll, holding it out in front of her, looking into its eyes. “I’ll take it,” she said before she could change her mind or consider the expense.
“I’m sure your daughter will love it!”
Irene only smiled and hoped so.
Miss Jamison accepted the doll from Irene’s hands and carefully took it to the front counter. She laid it down almost reverently and smiled. “I’ve never seen a doll like this in all my years running this shop. It was purchased from an obscure doll maker in the city. It is an art, you know, to be able to replicate the features with such fine workmanship. I’ve heard there are only a few who can match this doll maker’s skill.”
Irene watched as Miss Jamison pulled out several sheets of tissue paper and placed in on the countertop. She lifted the doll and placed it in the center of the soft sheets. First one corner and then the other were lifted and methodically folded around the full skirts and pinned in place. She took another sheet of the tissue paper and placed it over the auburn tresses and around the face. “This is just to prevent her hair from possibly getting tangled when I put her in your bag.” Miss Jamison carefully lifted the doll from its reclining position and slipped it, feet first, into the large paper bag, the tissue protecting the doll. She bent the legs at the hips, so the doll was sitting in the bottom of the bag with her skirts spread out about her. Miss Jamison added more tissue paper around the doll to prevent her from being jostled while Irene was walking home. “I’m sure your daughter will just love it! It will look beautiful on her bed.” She carefulled wrapped the parasol and slipped it into the bag
“I’m sure it will,” replied Irene, as she took the handles of the bag from Miss Jamison. The doll seemed heavier than it had when Miss Jamison gave it to her from the shelf. “Such a gorgeous doll,” she thought.
“Thank you for all your help,” Irene said. “I appreciate your time.”
“You’re welcome. It was my pleasure.”
Irene walked out the door and headed uptown toward the park and home. The bag had enough weight that it hung straight down at her side. She could feel a bit of strain in her shoulder and switched hands. She glanced inside the bag to see if the doll was okay. She could just barely see the top of the doll head with the curled auburn luckies partially visible under the large brimmed hat through the tissue. The doll’s hand was slightly raised and resting on the tissue paper, pushing is away from her face.
Irene stopped and placed the bag on the park bench. She cautiously inserted her hands into the bag and carefully removed the tissue paper from the doll’s face. The doll’s eyes were open and watching. Irene did not realize she was holding her breathe until she gasped. The clear porcelain complexion looked radiant. The long fingers, with its red nail polish, were now resting on top of the tissue paper, holding it. Her lips were slightly parted and smiling. Irene did not remember the lips being slightly parted, let alone smiling. She reached into the bag to lift the doll from its protected covering, when she stopped. Removing her hands, she decided she better wait until she got home.