February 3, 2010

Barbie's Dream House

I had a Barbie’s Dream House once. An original, first-ever, Model No. 816 Barbie’s Dream House, made of die-cut fiberboard that had to be assembled in 119 not-so-easy steps. I got it for Christmas in 1966. 

It hadn’t been on my Christmas list, a masterful document, each item carefully culled from the Sears Wishbook. I had wanted many things, but none more than Color Magic Barbie (page 625) whose hair and clothing changed colors when painted with the magic solution. (Refills sold separately.) Barbie’s Dream House wasn’t even in the catalog. (I know; I’ve checked.) And yet, there it was, under the tree on Christmas morning. To say I was disappointed is like saying that the Great Chicago Fire was a flash in the pan.

In fairness to that right jolly old elf and those helper elves known as my parents, 1966 might have been the year that we went to see Santa not at Livonia Mall, where my dad sold tires at Sears, or at Hudson’s department store downtown, whose windows were a marvel, but at Detroit’s Cobo Hall, where the main attraction might actually have been the stories-tall snowman slide that we climbed in order to whisper our secrets into the fat man’s ear. Apparently everyone in the greater Detroit area had brought their kids to see Santa, as the place rang with sounds of the season: whiny, tired, bored, hungry, excited-to-the-point-of-mania children.