“Oh, thank you!” I’d cried earlier that afternoon, feigning excitement to cover up my first real moment of repulsion in my life.
“Oh, Sweetie,” my mom exclaimed. “How adorable! You’re so lucky your grandma and grandpa thought of you on their trip!”
I forced a smile, masking my discomfort.
It was Christmas at my grandparents’ house, and they’d returned from a cruise to Alaska with an Eskimo doll for me. When they’d told me they’d got me a doll, this was not what I expected.
At 5 years old, I’d had blond-haired, blue-eyed Barbie’s, or home-made dolls from my mother’s friends that were made to look like me. They were dolls that looked familiar.
This doll, however, had paint on its face, a furry coat, dark skin, and big brown eyes that looked far too excited for an inanimate object. I had no idea where Alaska was, and I’d certainly never seen an Eskimo before.
In my bedroom that night, I sat on my bed waiting for my dad to come and tuck me in, and the doll sat across from me.
It was a rule, in my bedroom, that the special dolls and stuffed animals got to be in my bed. The rest of them were stored in a net hanging from my ceiling in one corner of my room.
I didn’t know what to do with this one. It was special, because it was from my grandparents, right? But for whatever reason, at 5 years old, I found it foreign and terrifying.
Where was Alaska? I wondered. Another country, maybe? Did they wear clothes there? Did they eat cheeseburgers? Did they have music? CD players? Books? Why did this doll have face-paint on? I reached for the doll, tried to scratch the paint off, but it was to no avail.
My dad came into the room and read the distress on my face. “Hey, Sweetie. Ready for bed? What book are we reading tonight?” he asked, pulling back the covers for me, and motioning for me to crawl under them.
“Dad,” I began, in a serious tone. “I don’t think I really like the doll that Grandma and Grandpa gave me. I don’t know what to do with it. Should I keep it on my bed tonight or put it in the net?”
“What would you like to do? It’s okay to not like all the presents you get. You were very polite to them though. That was nice of you.”
“Maybe should I just keep it on my bed for one night at least? Then tomorrow I can decide what to do with it?”
“Of course,” he said, putting the doll at the far end of my bed and tucking it under a doll blanket. Its excited eyes gazed at me. It frightened me so much.
“Where’s Alaska?” I asked, “And why did Grandma and Grandpa want to go there?”
“Because it’s beautiful,” my dad began. “It’s a state, and it is further North than here.”
“It is part of the US? A state like California?” I asked, clarifying.
“Yep. It has beautiful mountains, water, and animals. Lots of salmon, and even gold.”
“Gold? Real gold?”
“Yes, real gold.”
“Why does that doll look different than my other dolls?” I asked.
“That doll is an Eskimo,” he said. “A person native to Alaska. They have communities they live in. With their families. They have to wear warm coats because it can get cold there,” he explained, motioning to the fur coat my doll was wearing.
“Give me an an ooga mooga.” We touched the tips of our noses together. “That’s an Eskimo kiss. Did you know that?” he asked me. I shook my head.
He reached for a book and after he’d read to me, he turned off the light, cracked the door, and I fell asleep. I felt slightly uneasy about the doll being on my bed, but no worse for the wear. Learning about this magical place called Alaska made me feel a little calmer.
The rest of the story, I do not recall. I have only been told.
That night, around 12am, I rose from my bed, doll in hand, and walked into my parents’ bedroom. They heard me enter, and both watched as I walked deep into the room and stood wordlessly, expressionlessly, beside my dad’s side of the bed. I raised the doll above my head, and with two hands, I threw it with all my might into the middle of the bed, missing both of my parents.
After that, I returned to my bedroom, climbed back into bed, and went back to “sleep.”
“Did you see that?” my mom asked my dad.
“Yeah…” he replied. “I’ll go check on her.” When he entered, I was asleep, having already tucked myself back in.
I recalled none of this the next morning.
“Did you have any dreams last night?” they asked me as I crunched on my Cheerios.
“Nope,” I replied, encountering a bite with some frozen blueberries and brown sugar in it.
“Oh…” They both said, and then exchanged a look of amusement. “Well, I guess we’ll have to tell her…”
Several weeks ago, I was visiting my grandma in a long-term nursing facility where she is now bed-bound, due to a severely damaged knee. My grandfather can no longer care for her at home. He visits her once or twice a day, and I visit her once or twice a week. This particular day, all of us were sitting around for several hours, chatting about nothing terribly interesting, so I decided to unearth my past lie about the Eskimo doll.
“Remember that Eskimo doll you guys got me when you went to Alaska?” I asked them.
They both smiled and nodded.
“Well, I didn’t actually like it. …To be honest, I found it incredibly creepy.”
They both laughed, and then I told them the story of how I attempted to unconsciously assault my parents with it.
It only took me 15 years to drudge up the courage to admit it…