WHEN I was seven years old we moved to the pretty prairie town of Kindersley, Saskatchewan. Daddy was the minister of a staunchly conservative Protestant church. Our two-story parsonage featured a large garden and, piece-de-resistance -- a comfortable, 2-seater outhouse, white-washed inside and decorated with pictures of famous ice skaters!
My parents' chief benefactor in town was our attorney, Mr. Tracy. We were occasionally asked to take tea at the Tracy's grand 3-story mansion with its copper mansard roof and formal manicured lawns. Beautiful, aristocratic Mrs.Tracy reigned over her guests with regal Scottish grace and a refined Edinburgh accent, (unlike my father's Highland burr).
Slender little Monica Tracy was my age, but small-boned, with an infinitely superior air even then. Whenever we played 'Queen and Servants,' she assumed the QUEEN role, as if by 'right' -- and granted me the role of her Maid. With childish hauteur, she commanded me to bake and serve special mud pies for her royal dining pleasure.
In 1943 when I was nine we were invited to share Christmas dinner with the Tracy's.
After the meal the Tracy family opened a pile of rather lavish gifts. Mrs. Tracy gave my mother a silky blue scarf and an almost new and 'very good' tweed coat from her own closet. Monica was thrilled to get a much-desired Eaton's Beauty doll. When Mrs. Tracy noticed that I didn't have a present, most particularly, a doll, she whispered to Monica to run up to her 3rd floor playroom and pick out a doll for 'poor wee Dorothy".
I WAS OVERCOME WITH SHAME - HUMILIATION - PRIDE!
Monica returned with the biggest, ugliest, and most rejected doll in her vast gallery of dolls.
Its thick stuffed body was topped by a big ceramic head with staring painted-on blue eyes, molded clay hair with a hole in the middle for a ribbon: yuck.
I HATED IT!
And sat stiff and unreceiving, arms crossed.
"Say Thank You to Monica, dear", my mother hissed, sweetly.
BUT I COULDN'T. AND I DIDN''T.
My 'godly' mother was deeply mortified by my ingratitude and disobedience.
As a minister's wife she couldn't afford a prideful response.
And she wore that 'good' hand-me-down tweed coat for years.
The next year when we visited the city of Winnipeg my father bought me a longed-for Baby Precious doll. She had 'real' hair and eyes that opened and shut. I named her Gloria.
I loved her.
I hand-sewed a little nighty for her out of pale blue flannelette trimmed with lace. And Daddy bought her a dear little pink robe for 39 cents >>
She's a bit shabby now, 70 years later, but she still sits right here with me in my studio.