Last Thing I Wanted

One Christmas I opened a present and discovered it was Chatty Cathy.


This was considered the doll at that time, second only to Barbie. It talked, and the eyes closed when you laid it down. You pulled a string, and it said words. And it was large for a doll, standing twenty inches tall.  

tumblr_lzk93cqIgf1rnm1cjo1_500I looked at it and felt the most profound disappointment. I’d never been interested in dolls. I liked building things, so Lego or Tinkerytoys were of great interest to me. The boy next door had Legos, and we built a cool house one day. It even had white picket fencing we could put around the green plastic “yard.” Another time, a bunch of relatives brought all their Tinkertoys, and we constructed a working windmill in the middle of the living room during some get-together, following a schematic included with the set.  It was way bigger than the one pictured at right, requiring multiple containers.

What I really wanted was a typewriter. It was the second year I’d asked for one. There were stories in my head screaming to get out, and writing longhand was slow and painstaking. Besides, real writers didn’t use pencils or pens. They used typewriters.

I unwrapped this monstrosity–doesn’t she look creepy?–and feigned gratitude and happiness. They watched me, waiting for my reaction, expecting me to keel over with joy. I couldn’t get anywhere near faking that, so I pulled the string at the back of her neck to distract them, and she said something innocuous.

Big whoop.

I forced myself to give her attention the rest of the evening, but after that night, I don’t recall ever touching her again. I couldn’t relate to her. She didn’t fire my imagination, like Legos or Tinkertoys. I mean, what the hell did you with her? Couldn’t figure it out, and after I’d heard all the phrases she said, I was bored.

I think she lived in the back of my closet for a while, then eventually disappeared. If they’d made movies like Chucky back then, I probably would have never slept again with this thing in my room. Good thing I didn’t catch this TV show! From Wiki:

Chatty Cathy was the inspiration for an episode of The Twilight Zone entitled “Living Doll” originally broadcast November 1, 1963. June Foray, who had been the voice of the original Chatty Cathy,[citation needed] provided the voice for Talky Tina, a “talking” child’s doll that is secretly evil. One of her phrases was, “My name is Talky Tina, and I’m going to kill you.”

I did finally get my beloved typewriter the next Christmas. That and books were the only things I ever asked for. Legos and Tinkertoys were expensive, and my family didn’t have a lot of money when I was a kid. But I had the typewriter, and that’s all I needed. Too bad I wore out the ribbon so quickly and no one thought to replace it. When I asked the parents to get me one, they said, “Sure,” but it never happened.

I went back to using a pen. *sigh* I had a writer’s callus until well after I grew up and moved out. In fact, I can still feel a little bit of it on that middle finger, even though I rarely write with a pen anymore. That’s how deeply ingrained it became.

I can’t tell you how pleased I was to get a computer for Christmas one year. R gave it to me, and I turned it on immediately. Word Perfect FTW! And not a doll in sight.


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14 Responses to Last Thing I Wanted

  1. Helena Stone says:

    I’m starting to think maybe we were separated at birth. I too remember getting a doll once, she didn’t talk but could close her eyes and she came with a pram. I think she lay in that pram in my room for a long time, until I could truthfully claim I was too old for dolls and we could pass it on to a cousin of mine since it was still pristine – duh, I’d never played with it. I also remember having a Barbie and a Ken doll. The ended up on the top shelf of my bookcase, never to be touched again. I was fortunate though, my parents gave us books all the time and were never disappointed when they made me happier than any of the other presents. In fact, the preferred books over all other gifts as much as I did.

    • My grandparents always gave me books, and when the family took summer driving vacations, and we kids were allowed to buy something at a gift shop, I always went straight to the books.

  2. Carrie says:

    It’s funny…I always liked playing with my Barbies. But now I’m realizing that what I REALLY liked about them was making clothes. I don’t ever recall making up stories or acting out life events or any of that stuff with them. I set up their houses and made clothes, them got bored. Huh, funny what triggers memories. Also, YES, with the books! Everyone knew from the time I was little that the best present for Carrie was a book. Still is. 🙂

  3. Jaycee Edward says:

    You both are much more polite than me. I got a doll once and remember whining, “I HATE dolls!!!!” I was lucky in having a brother eight years older. I got his cast off toys. I grew up playing with the green army men, Lionel trains, tinker toys, Lincoln Logs (my fav), stadium checkers and a Mighty Mo canon!! I still wish I had that canon some days! And Super Sonic Sub Hunt! Best game ever!!!

  4. Yvonne says:

    LOL the one present I still remember hating was (don’t shoot me) a book. It was a book with stories from a tv series I loved,but for some reason I hated that book with a passion. Didn’t turn me off books thankfully and a few years later you seldom found me without a book.

    • I can’t think of any book I hated as a kid. I even borrowed books from the neighbors and stacks of them from any library I could get to.

      • Yvonne says:

        It was THE ONE exception (and I think I was 5 or 6 years old)! When I was a bit older I was often desperate because the school library was only open a few days a week and I was too young to go to the city library by myself. And of course there was a limit to the amount of books you could borrow.

  5. diannegray says:

    The worst present I ever received was a bag I had given the person the year before. they obviously hated it, forgot who gave it to them, and re-wrapped it! I loved it – LOL

    “My name is Talky Tina, and I’m going to kill you.” – haaaa, I laughed hard when I read this. Chatty Kathy was probably her evil cousin and you’re lucky she didn’t jump out of that closet and attack you in the middle of the night 😀

    PS I hate dolls in any form so I feel your pain xxx

  6. Roger D Howell says:

    I am old enough I remember either my sister had a Chatty Cathy or a friend had one. When I was about ten is when this doll made an appearance in my life and I hated it from the first time I saw it. What is funny is I loved my GI Joe doll. But I am going to stay PC instead of saying what I really wanted GI Joe for!! I guess GI Joe was really an action figure.

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