A TIN TOY GAS STATION ~ Katharine Valentino

When I was 6, Mama bought me a doll for Santa to give me for Christmas. She helped Santa with the gift by sewing an elaborate doll’s outfit: an ivory satin and lace gown with gathers and ribbons, a pair of diminutive ivory gloves with lace insets, and satin slippers. Everything was sewn with the teeniest tiniest stitches.

The doll was beautiful. I didn’t want it.

I wanted instead the present Santa brought my 4-year-old brother: a stamped tin toy gas station with pumps one could fill with water, hoses one could squirt the water out of, and a car one could squirt the water into. For weeks, I followed my brother around begging to be allowed to “gas up the car.” If I got a response at all to my repeated pleas, it was likely to be a squirt of water—or more likely KoolAid—from the miniature gas nozzle onto my new handmade sweater, also a Christmas gift that Mama had knitted.

I whined. My brother jeered. My mother probably wondered why she had ever given birth to children.

If I had known at the time that there was no Santa Claus.… If I had understood that Mama had saved for months to buy that doll.… If I’d had any notion of the number of hours it took at a sewing machine to create such an exquisite outfit.… Would I have been more willing to at least carry the doll around for a while?

Probably not.  Six-year-olds are selfish.

But we love them anyway.