Christmas Chipmunk

It was Christmas 1983 and I was ready. No doubt my wishlist was long and detailed, but I’ve long forgotten what I requested. Except for one particular item.

I’d probably given up any hope of getting a Cabbage Patch Doll, or it might have been that E.T. and Star Wars didn’t hold my interest, perhaps I already had enough Smurf paraphernalia, but for some reason what I really wanted that year was Alvin. Of the chipmunk fame.

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Many details of that time are fuzzy, but I remember giving my list to my dad and outlining specifically what I meant by “Chipmunk”.

“A stuffed one. You know, the singing ones. There’s Alvin, Simon, and Theodore. I’ll take any, but I’d really like Alvin. The one with the red shirt.”

He nodded and reassured me that we were on the same page, “Alvin. From the show. Got it,” and left to do some shopping (no illusions of Santa in my childhood).

Christmas arrived and I excitedly squeezed a very soft package with my name on it. Janice was written in his familiar printing. No need to sign it, I knew who it was from.

My turn finally arrived and I tore into that package, confident Alvin was waiting for me. Yes! Got my chipmunk!

Oh, I got my chipmunk alright. Meet my Alvin.

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I had asked for a chipmunk and a chipmunk is what I got. I have to give eight-year-old me credit, I grinned and hugged it and gave my dad a big hug. He was so happy. He had no idea that this was not the chipmunk I had had in mind.

He was so happy.

Maybe on some level 1983-me knew the lengths he would have gone to to find a stuffed chipmunk. A stuffed chipmunk. Think about it: a realistic-looking chipmunk plushy toy. Alvin the Chipmunk could be found in any major chain store, but a chipmunk stuffy? That took a lot of effort.

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Chipmunk stuffy complete with plush nut and bushy tail.
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Chipmunk plushy complete with hat, t-shirt, and shoes.

It was not what I had asked for, but I got what I needed. Despite running a business, having a sick child, and raising four kids, my dad made time to get my Christmas present. It was perfect.

Despite all the stress and worry and anxiety he had, I mattered.

This is one of my favourite Christmas stories: that time I asked for Alvin, but instead got the gift of sacrifice, love, and the importance of being gracious and grateful.

He’d gotten me exactly what I had asked for. And I was so happy.

Sometimes “No” is Better

A giant Papa Smurf! I’m asking for that for Christmas.

No.

I’ll take Cheer Bear for my birthday, please.

No. Enjoy your Grumpy Bear glass from Pizza Hut, that’s as close as you’re going to get.

That’s not to say I didn’t receive any popular toys in the 80s. I did have various Strawberry Shortcake toys which I loved and still have (at my parents’ house, obviously). My sister and I both got Miss Piggy Babies one Christmas. We were not deprived, but my parents did say “no” more often than I would have liked.

Then along came the epitome of the 80s childhood toy. The doll that we all wanted. The doll that sold out as soon as it was stocked. It became the stuff of legends if you owned one, let alone two. And the real deal, no knock-offs.

The Cabbage Patch Doll.

Oh, how I wanted one. I wasn’t picky, hair colour didn’t matter, I just really, really wanted to have a cabbage patch doll. PLEASE.

No.

No, we aren’t going to jump on the bandwagon of consumerism.*

No, we aren’t going to line up overnight to get you the next big thing.

No, we aren’t going to spend that kind of money on something you will enjoy at first only to see it collect dust in the corner.

No.

And then, one day that no turned in a yes. Of sorts.

Mom and Dad didn’t have a sudden change of heart and rush out to buy me a Cabbage Patch doll complete with a signature on its bottom. I didn’t wake up morning to a surprise delivery of my very dream come true.

No, instead I got something better. Much better.

A family friend made me my own Cabbage Patch doll. She went to a flea market and bought clothes for her and even picked up newborn diapers.

Some might say that homemade = inferior, and that may be true in some cases, but not this one. I received a gift that took time, energy, and a lot of love and thought. Even as a young girl, I knew the true value of that doll. I never longed for a Cabbage Patch again because what I received was so much better.

Meet Amanda
Meet Amanda

I do not hold on to many things. I am nostalgic with memories and shared events, but not really things. And although my doll is still at my parents’ house, it’s more for her safety rather than my neglect. She’s special. She’s a “no” that was better.

Side note: About thirty years after ginger Amanda was christened, I met and became good friends with a new Amanda. Which just proves that God has an amazing sense of humour.

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*disclaimer: I do not judge you or your parents if you did have a Cabbage Patch doll, those things were awesome.

Have you had a time when “no” was better?