The Doll

“Class, get out a sheet of paper,” called Miss Morgan. Cassie eagerly placed a blank sheet of lined paper on her desk. It held so many possibilities. It could be a good story, a bad story, or a happy or sad story. Maybe if she were lucky, she would get a shiny gold star that glittered when held in the light. For a third grader, she was a very good writer.

“Write a letter to Santa Claus,” Cassie’s teacher instructed. Cassie watched her in fascination. She was so beautiful, the way the curls of shiny brown hair escaped from the knot pinned on top of her head. Her green eyes danced and she was always smiling as if teaching a bunch of third graders was just the thing she loved to do. Cassie wanted to be just like her when she grew up. She was nice, pretty, and smart. She was the perfect role model.

Miss Morgan told them to tell Santa what they wanted for Christmas and to remember all parts of a letter. So Cassie wrote in her neatest printing:

December 1

Dear Santa,

You know that we are poor. So for Christmas, I want Daddy to be safe and happy in Heaven with God. I want Mama to find a good job, not just being a checkout lady. I hear her praying at night. She worries she doesn’t make enough money to pay for everything we need. I’m fine, Santa, but I don’t want Mama to be worried. I want my sister, Clara, to be happy and fit in at middle school. The mean kids call her mean names just because we’re poor.

And also, Santa, I know I shouldn’t ask for too much, but I’d really like a doll. I would care for her and play with her. All the other girls in third grade have one, and I really wish I did. And I know you make wishes come true. So that is what I want for Christmas, Santa. Thank you.



She turned in her letter. That night, Miss Morgan sat at the kitchen table, resting her chin in her hand. She was reading twenty-seven four page Christmas lists in letter format, and writing comments on them in red pen. She took an especially long letter off the stack, relieved at finally having come to the end of it. Then she looked down.

She recognized the neat, round printing of Cassie, her smartest and quietest pupil. She read it slowly, then read it again. The innocence of the loving child brought tears to her eyes. She lived with so many troubles, yet stated them, not as if she were complaining, but as if they were facts. She smiled at the thought of little Cassie being so caring and giving. She seemed, at that moment, much more mature than the other precocious little children that demanded Santa to bring them everything on their lists.

Miss Morgan picked up her pen and began to write.

Twenty-three Days Later

“Go to bed!” Mama said, laughing. “Go to bed, my beautiful girls, or Santa cannot come!”

Cassie and Clara ran giggling to the room they shared. Mama put the hot water bag near her daughters’ feet to warm them and pulled up the bedspread. She tucked it snugly around their chins and kissed each on the forehead. “Goodnight, Clara. Goodnight, Cassie. I love you.”

“Goodnight, Mama,” they chorused. “Love you too.”

Mama switched the light off and Cassie blinked, trying to get her eyes accustomed to the darkness that suddenly surrounded them. “Clara?” she whispered.

“Mmhmm?” came the muffled reply.

“Are you excited?”

“Yes. Are you?”

“Yeah.” Clara stared at the ceiling. “Well, goodnight. I love you.”

“Love you too. Sleep tight.”

Cassie snuggled close to her older sister and listened to her even breathing and the bitter cold wind howling outside. And soon, she drifted off to sleep, dreaming about the time of togetherness that was called Christmas.


“Cassie! Cassie, wake up!” Cassie awoke to the sight of her sister’s excited face. “It’s Christmas!”

Cassie and Clara raced to the living room, and the sight of the early morning silenced them. There was Mama in her best nightgown, her long brown hair braided into a plait hanging down her back. Behind her, the small tree glittered with strung popcorn, handmade ornaments, and long brightly colored ribbons. There weren’t that many presents under the tree, but it still looked marvelous, and the girls’ eyes grew wide with delight. Cassie ran to the window and pressed her nose against the cold pane. There were perfect little flakes falling softly to the ground, adding yet another layer to the thick white blanket covering the ground. It was beautiful and serene, like a scene right out of a fairy tale.

“Merry Christmas, girls,” mama said, pulling them into a hug. “Now, let’s open presents! I see Santa came, because the cookies we made have vanished and there are presents under the tree!”

They opened their presents from Mama first. Each girl got a lovely dress that Mama had made herself. The silky material looked as if it had cost a fortune, and Cassie ran her fingers over it admiringly. “You need nice clothes to wear to church,” Mama said, beaming as they hugged her and expressed their gratitude.

Mama opened her present from her daughters next. They had both chipped in to get her a pretty woven black scarf to keep her warm. She loved it and exclaimed it was just what she had always wanted.

Cassie and Clara exchanged gifts. Cassie opened hers to find a drawing of a kitten, her favorite animal. “Wow! Thanks, Clara,” she said. “I wish I could draw like you.” Cassie had made Clara a snowman, using a sock and buttons. “Cute!” Clara grinned.

Then they all opened their gifts from Santa. Clara got a jewelry box and a necklace. Mama got a new skirt. Cassie opened the corners of her gift carefully, sliding her finger under the shiny gift-wrap. Inside was a rectangular box. She lifted the lid slowly, wondering what it was. An amazingly wonderful doll lay amongst the tissue paper. This doll was breathtaking, prettier even than the ones she had longingly gazed at through the shop windows. She had a creamy porcelain complexion and shiny brown curly hair. The doll wore a green velvet dress that matched her green glass eyes perfectly. Cassie was stunned. Her doll had a striking resemblance to Miss Morgan, actually. She stared at her, and she stared back, and no one said a word.

“Is she really mine to keep?” Cassie said softly.

“Yes, honey,” Mama replied. “Santa gave her to you for Christmas!”

Clara sucked in her breath. “She’s gorgeous! What are you going to name her?”

Cassie considered this question. She needed a fantastic name for a fantastic doll. Suddenly, a thought leapt into her mind.

“Miss Morgan told us to write a letter to Santa,” she explained. “She is so nice. And I wrote to Santa and asked him for a doll. So I will name my doll Morgan after my favorite teacher.”

Mama and Clara both smiled and watched as Cassie hugged Morgan. Then the phone rang and Mama stood and went to answer it.

Cassie and Clara watched in silence as Mama nodded and occasionally spoke. “Okay,” she finally said. “Thank you very much. Merry Christmas!”

Mama hung up slowly, and Cassie was worried something was wrong. But when Mama turned around, her eyes shone with happiness.

“Last week, I had an interview,” she said breathlessly. “I didn’t tell you girls; I didn’t want to get your hopes up. But I have a job right here in town! I’m a daycare teacher! I got the job!”

Cassie and Clara both screamed and rushed to hug their mother. They jumped up and down and celebrated.

“Thank you, Lord,” Mama said, tears streaming down her face. She made waffles to celebrate.

Later that afternoon, after Cassie and Clara came in from playing in the snow, the phone rang again. Clara answered it. “Oh, hi!” she said. “Really? Cool! That sounds great! Okay. Thanks a lot. Have a Merry Christmas. ‘Bye.” She hung up and told Cassie and Mama, “I’m invited to Hilary’s winter party next week!”

It was a great holiday. They were together and happy, and that was all that mattered.

That was Cassie’s best Christmas ever. And she owed it all to Santa, the jolly man in the red suit who made wishes come true.

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