My wife was telling me about the intoxicating smell that came from the packaging of Barbie dolls and Barbie accessories back in the day. I related that smell to the smell of a pack of baseball cards back in my day.
My father was a smoke eater. Neither the Barbie smell nor the card smell opened his olfactory doors to any extent.
He knew as much about dolls and cards as we knew about hooks and ladders.
Fifty years ago, I was losing the urge for cards. My sister, however, was in the ‘She Loves You’ stage of her Barbie mania.
She wanted/needed a companion for her Barbie. She needed a Ken and Christmas was approaching.
My father was all over it.
Pretty sure he told my Mom “I got this”.
The gifts were under the tree.
One of the packages was a man wrapped rectangle.
Everybody knew what that rectangle contained under the ribbons and bows.
My parents distributed the gifts. Sweaters and shirts and socks came first while anticipation for the ‘good stuff’ built to a crescendo as the packages dwindled.
The good stuff was always at the end and the best thing was the last thing.
Finally, the only package left was the rectangle.
My sister was getting warmed up for that fake cry of surprise that we gave when we got what we wanted although we knew that it was coming.
My Dad, full of confidence and good cheer handed her the rectangle.
Terri opened the package slowly, savoring the moment. All eyes were upon her.
“ oh my God…thank you Sooo much…it’s a …..”
She hesitated to make sure…..the plastic didn’t smell right.
“ a Bill!?”
“You got her a Bill, Vinnie” asked my mother in subdued shock.
“yeah”, answered my Dad. The guy at the store told me Bill was better than Ken”.
He knew he was in hot water. Even though he was used to heat, This heat grew to stifling in a matter of seconds. There were no hoses available.
My sister, to her credit, refrained from dousing the fire with tears.
I’ll never forget the way she said “it’s a Bill.”
The celebration continued although smoke was filling the room.
As I recall the moment today, I can imagine what was going through my father’s mind when he bought the Bill.
To him, a doll was a doll and the fact that one doll looked exactly like the other doll and yet cost half as much made the Bill a much better doll than the Ken.
My sister guessed the inevitable solution so she wisely underplayed her reaction.
She took the Bill upstairs to meet Barbie.
The meeting was awkward, I found out later.
Neither Bill nor Barbie knew quite what to say.
Of course, my mother knew what to do.
The next day, Bill disappeared and Ken had a great first date with Barbie.
Everybody was happy. Including my Dad.
Over the next year. he would ask Terri about Bill.
One day, he walked into her room to watch his beautiful daughter play with her Barbie and her Bill.
My father looking at Ken and mistaking him for Bill said “Bill and Barbie look happy.”