1Allison Smith

19th Challenge

I don't want a lot for Christmas:

I was wandering around FAO Schwarz today, and found myself sitting in the middle of the rather impressive doll house, holding a very life-like baby doll in my arms and staring at the holiday Breyer horse. She's beautiful; blue mane and tail, sparkly white body, the works. But what got me was that she looked remarkably like the pair of horses you talked me into picking as our holiday gift from Aunt Kathy that year. Sure, then the horses were Pegasus'–mine pink and yellow, yours purple and blue–and this one was so obviously not the cheap "toy of the moment" kind of thing. All the same, it had that magical quality to it that made me want to sit down and pet it, gather more horses to me, and quietly move them around through the dramas and comedies of Julie's Barbies. So I did, I sat down amongst the glaringly pink outfits of the other dolls and gently fingered one turquoise rein, smiling, and emitting a short whinny for you.

The Snow Princess Holiday Horse was definitely a Katherine kind of horse, which made me momentarily happy. She was everything you worked so hard at trying to make me: quietly beautiful, elegant, sweet-natured, calm. Seeing that, I gave a moment of respectful silence for your memory. I remembered the years of Thanksgiving sleep-overs at Aunt Kathy's house, and how we used to fight over whether we'd watch "it's a wonderful life" or "My Fair Lady"and how Jon would always make the decision for us by diving in between us and changing the channel to watch Star Wars. You would quietly sit there and let me poke him and whine and argue until he gave up on trying to watch, and left the room out of sheer annoyance. That's just how you were, and I was the only person you ever seemed to feel inclined to argue with. The next day we'd get up early and eat something delicious for breakfast before getting all dressed up to go to the mall, meet santa, ride on the mono-rail, and eat lunch before seeing the Nutcracker. You hated that, but it was my favorite. The idea of toys coming to life scared you, but I always thought it would be terribly romantic, especially if they were anything like the Nutcracker. Afterwards, we'd go to dinner, and pick out our weekend holiday gifts. One year I would get to pick, and the next year you would...or at least that's how it was supposed to go. You usually got what you wanted though, and I'm not quite sure how that happened.

The year we got our Pegasus', though... that year we got two holiday gifts, remember? Aunt Kathy thought we'd look adorable in the Tigger shirts and Over-all pants that we saw in the Disney store. And you hated that. Tigger wasn't your favorite character in the world. He wasn't even close. But you didn't say anything, because you knew it would hurt her feelings. So we got the Pegasus'. Because I knew you were upset about the clothes. And I made a big stink about not wanting clothes for a present, that clothes were a stinky present, and we should get another one. I was such a charming little brat that I weaseled our way into two gifts that year. Jon was so mad that he only got those ridiculous Army guys. You know the ones with the cheap Camouflage paint on them. I wrinkled my nose at him, stuck out my tongue, and covered the action by taking a big bite of my pizza when Uncle Lou looked over. You just sat there and stared at your horse, studiously not showing any sign of the emotions that I could practically feel from across the table. I wanted to hug you and never let you go in that moment, because the world was too fast and too hard for my sensitive Katherine. But I didn't. I just bounced in my seat throughout dinner, and chatted merrily with everyone in Dad's old restaurant.

The girl who was standing next to me dropped her doll at the sound of her mother's voice. Out of habit I picked it up, cradled it to me, and fixed the blue hat on the strawberry blonde tufts of hair. I put the pacifier back in his mouth and hummed a nursery song to it, stopping only when I realized that I was a grown woman sitting in the middle of a room full of baby dolls and toy horses, studiously ignoring the terror that was Barbie doll, and singing to a discarded boy doll. I couldn't have–in that moment–told you how I had gotten to that point.

Well, the geographics of it would have been quite easy. I had gotten on the 1 train–which was surprisingly on time that day–uptown to 42nd street, and transferred to the Q train all the way to 59th and 5th, where I got off. I was supposed to walk over to Dad's old Restaurant from there, but I took a wrong turn and ended up on the corner of 5th and 58th. And then, there I was in the middle of the second level of the biggest toy store in the nation, hugging dolls and petting toy horses. I left immediately and got to the End Of The Rainbow without incident after that, sat down, ordered the house special with a lemon water, smiled charmingly, and spoke to the new owners. I asked about his son for you, He's doing fine. Getting married in July. Apparently she's beautiful, and they're a perfect couple. Our pictures are all still on the wall over the bar... only now I feel like it's incomplete. Pictures of us as eight year old kids, holding our stupid horses, and wearing matching outfits like some sort of ridiculous Twin act, next to Jon's 6th grade yearbook picture, and Kyle's 3rd grade one. Surrounding them all are pictures of his kids growing up, graduating from college, getting married, having babies of their own.

He doesn't even have a clipping saved from your funeral.

And why should he? He isn't your Uncle, or my father... he's just the new owner of my daddy's life dream.

I shake my head at this, swallow down tears, and steal a white carnation for you, as I did that year when we were 7 and the biggest tragedy was getting the wrong cartoon character on our shirts.

I miss you. More than I could say, baby Cousin. You were dusk to my dawn, logical to my impulse, calm to my passion. You always knew what to do when things got difficult because I didn't think before I acted. You always needed me when the world got too tough for you and it was scary. Everything was okay, because we had each other, and you were my advisor, and I was your champion. And I felt brave and in charge, confident in my abilities to save our world.

But you're gone. And these days, I'm feeling more like piglet than tigger. Your niece is due in 6 months, her father doesn't even know it yet, and I don't think I could stand failing to protect another life from this world.

All the same, I bet she's beautiful. I bet she has bright blue eyes and white blonde hair, like her namesake. I bet she loves horses, and quietly goes about life in her own stubborn fashion. I hope she's as kind-hearted as you are, and doesn't inherit my selfishness. I hope that she's more passionate than you were though. It will protect her from the world.

P.S–I bought the toy horse.

And don't think that I'm naming her after you because I want her to be like you, or because I'm honoring you. Because I'm not. I'm naming her Katherine because I want to give you a second chance to do things right. To not take the coward's way out of life. I'm naming her Katherine because I love you both, and I want her to know that even when she does something stupid, I'll still love her. Just like I still love you.