Every Christmas, the two sisters were each gifted a doll that had the coloring of the other. Beth, the elder sister, always coveted Maddie’s doll. She yearned to have a doll with hair like the light of the sun and a dress the color of cotton candy.
Instead, Beth received the Latina version of the doll which looked more like Maddie. It had light brown skin, brown hair, and a brown dress. So much brown made Beth think about dirt which had become her least favorite thing on the planet.
Beth wanted to ask her parents for a blonde doll for a change but she hated appearing vulnerable or in need of anything. Instead, she mustered up an appropriate amount of enthusiasm for the overly brown doll to avoid making her parents believe she felt punished for having it dumped on her.
Once the gifts were unwrapped, the sisters freed their dolls from the packaging to play with them the same way they always did. Beth carefully opened the box and removed the brown doll still attached to its inner packaging. She untwisted the plastic-coated wires holding the doll in place on the cardboard insert. Once free of the packaging, she removed the brown clothes, one by one, to examine the body.
She lifted the naked doll to her nose to inhale the off-gassing plastic that would inevitably be shown to cause cancer. Her fingers caressed the velvety arms and legs and the cloth torso. She rubbed the silky hair between her fingers, convinced that it felt gritty compared to the blonde’s. She experimented with limb positions to determine whether the doll could stand on its own. Once satisfied, she laid it on the floor before her.
Having completed the obligatory play, she set about restoring the gift to its original condition. She redressed the doll, handling it gingerly in case a spirit was trapped inside. She combed the brown hair, smoothing it down the doll’s back. Then Beth used the same coated wires to retie the doll to the package insert. She mentally compared her doll to Jesus and the cardboard panel to a cross. She replaced the doll-Jesus back into the box where the smell, any spirits, and her self-righteousness might be safely sealed inside.
Beth breathed a resigned sigh then looked over to her sister’s playing. Maddie’s doll lay on the floor between her legs, the doll’s limbs akimbo, its body liberated from its clothes and its head. The cotton candy confection of a dress lay behind her. It had a rip in the sleeve and crayon rubbed into the fabric. Maddie’s tiny hands squeezed the doll’s dismembered head while she drew a face tattoo with a magic marker, covering much more face with ink than even a hardened prison inmate would recommend. In addition, most of the coveted silky blonde hair lay like shredded filament on top of the pale, headless, twisted body.
Beth felt a smug satisfaction witnessing her sister’s destruction of the previously glorious doll. She knew her parents would never notice Maddie’s alterations any more than they’d notice that Beth never played with the brown doll. Only occasionally, when Beth felt sorry for herself would she find the doll and run through her ritual. It reminded her that as bad as she felt in the moment, at least she wasn’t the one being crucified on a cardboard panel and shoved in a box. She’d look at the minefield of Maddie’s dismembered dolls and imagine that there were worse things than being ignored.