One of the little shops we went into had everything from stationary to sweaters, pillows, and candy. Each shelf held something more interesting, and adorable. One particular shelf had a few nesting dolls on them. Matryoshkas, are what they are properly called. Wooden dolls, made on a lathe, and beautifully hand painted. They are of decreasing size, placed one inside the other. The smallest innermost doll, the baby, is made from a single piece of wood.
I had always loved them. Everything about them, from the peasant dresses painted on them, and head scarfs, to the beautiful faces, and rosy cheeks adorning their sweet smiles have always charmed me. There was a giant set, consisting of many dolls, on the shelf. They were beautiful. And pricey. I quickly placed the "mama" doll back down on the shelf after eying the price. An identical, smaller set sat next to the larger, more ornate set. Equally beautiful, and half the cost. I traced the shelf with my finger, pausing to look at the baby. My favorite doll of the sets. So tiny, and precious. All encased in her "big sister" dolls. Protected, and shielded, encapsulated in the mama. She is the most precious.
David and I spent our first Christmas together, that December. We bought the smallest tree, and purchased our first set of decorations together. Plastic ornaments from Kmart. I recall thinking they should have been more ornate. Maybe glass. Something more important to mark our first holiday together. I knew in my heart there were to be many, but I certainly didn't want to scare David away by speaking of the future in those early days of our love. So plastic balls it was.
We decorated our tree, and I even tried to string popcorn, which I quickly learned was tedious, and filling, and abandoned it after realizing how much popcorn I would need to wrap the tree with. We didn't have a tree topper, so I cut a star out of cardboard, and wrapped it in aluminum foil. David placed it on top of our little tree, and we marveled at how adorable it was. We were so happy. So incredibly happy to have found one another.
Christmas Eve came, and I had purchased David an expensive shirt. It was blue gingham. It had starchy collars and cuffs. It was fitted, and very elegant. All things that David avoids. I thought the blue would be perfect with his eyes. I had an idea in my head how he "should" dress, as opposed to how he actually did. It was so not his style, and when I gave it to him, along with a beautiful sweater, that thankfully, he loved, he could not hide his dislike for the shirt. It wasn't him. It was something he never would have chosen for himself.
David handed me my gift. It was a small box. I thought that it most likely was perfume. I didn't really wear much perfume, and wondered what he might have thought smelled good, as I am pretty particular with those kinds of things. I unwrapped the box, and was met with tissue paper. I carefully pushed the crinkly paper aside, and was met with the smile of the nesting dolls from Sag Harbor. There was mama staring up at me, with her rosy cheeks, and floral dress. Her hair peeked out of her kerchief. Inside were the girls. One by one, I opened them, each matching the other, but just a little different as to have her own personality.
The last doll was the baby. The smallest and most protected of the set. She had the tiniest smile, and apron, all matching her big sisters. She was simply adorable. I was in awe. David had remembered something that I admired months before. He saw me look at them, and he listened to me say how I had loved nesting dolls my whole life, and had always wanted a set. I remember him apologizing that they weren't the larger, more ornate set. I also remember thinking "Are you kidding???" They were perfect!! They were the most beautiful gift I had ever received. The thoughtfulness behind the gift astounded me. He loved me. I knew it right there and then. He loved me.
I have added many nesting dolls to my collection, through the years. There is the big blue set I opened one Mothers Day, in bed, half asleep, because my girls were too excited to give them to me. There is the yellow set that has so many dolls, and the baby is the size of the top of Molly's pinky finger. There is even a glass set with butterflies on them, and two Santa sets given to me many Decembers ago.
But my favorite one is the first. The gift that told me I was somebody, to someone else, and what I had to say was being heard. The set that was purchased out of wanting to please me, and make me happy. Because I was loved, and I loved in return. The shirt went back, and I learned never to try and dress David again, and a more appropriate David shirt was purchased. But those nesting dolls, symbolizing everything about love, and protecting our most loved little ones, still remains the most valuable to me.
My most precious baby.
Love a little bit more this Christmas.