We were little girls and it was the era of the Cabbage Patch dolls. Every little girl wanted one--and no one more than Alisa and I. But stores were sold out and so all the hoping guaranteed nothing. We had no hope of Santa bringing them because Dad had been quite frank with us about how the Santa thing worked.
One day, a few weeks before Christmas, we made a hopeful discovery. In the closet, under the stairs, we found two Cabbage Patch-shaped boxes wrapped in one layer of white tissue paper. We could make out the words on the box. We were ecstatic. I don't know if we managed to hide the joy we had, knowing there were dolls for us. If my parents didn't know we had found our Christmas present, it was because of the chaos of the season and four or five wild kids. But it was a secret we shared in hopes and giggles, especially as we went to bed each night.
My aunt Laurie had worked the miracle--she worked at a store and had access to inventory before it went on the shelves. I love my mom for getting us those dolls, but I know we owe it to my Aunt Laurie, and probably my grandma too, who seemed to fund those tight Christmases.
I don't remember that Christmas morning very vividly, but the hours and hours that Alisa and I played with those dolls are some of the happiest memories of my childhood. Not all is perfect--my doll was cuter than hers and I sometimes rubbed it in. But those dolls were real to us. We took them to the dinner table, and bought them Christmas presents, and took their portraits (with a Christmas present of a future year). Mine was Susie, olive skinned and brown hair. Alisa's was Gaylinda, a redhead like Anne of Green Gables. They were our children. We had adoption certificates to prove it!
Christmas without my little sister is painful this year. I have felt her absence deeply. As we drove around yesterday, I put in the movie, Little Women, for my kids to watch. I've seen that movie more times than I can count. I have it practically memorized. Alisa and I loved that movie and in some ways we lived it.
My very favorite scene of all is when they give Beth the piano. It struck me as we watched it yesterday how Alisa tried to recreate that gift when she organized the piano gift when Daniel died. I know it wasn't just Little Women that drove her to do such a thing, but the romance about gifting your sick sister with a beautiful piano was not lost on Alisa. I felt sure of that last night.
This morning as I wait to surprise my kids with my carefully thought out gifts, I think of my parents and how they must have been almost as excited as Alisa and I were about the Cabbage Patch dolls. I think of Alisa and her excitement to reveal the piano. And I think of Heavenly Father, who is the perfect gift giver. I have no doubt that one of the greatest gifts he ever gave me was a little sister so close in age and so close to my heart. And I thank Him for the even greater gift of His son, Jesus Christ, and his atonement that makes it possible for me to be with her forever someday.