Lana had certainly known her share of Christmases! Just how many she wasn’t quite sure. But it seemed to her that the most wonderful of all was still the first one, when she was born.
For Lana was born one Christmas Eve, a few hours before the holiday. On that beautiful morning, she had awakened in a workshop that sparkled with garlands and gold paper, surrounded by little fellows who sang while they worked non-stop. And what were they working on? Well, they were making other Lanas, dozens of Lanas, which they lined up on a shelf loaded with candy and chocolate.
Lana rubbed her eyes, smoothed down her woolen braids, admired her little socks and her pretty cotton dress, and, quick as you please, she dropped down from the shelf to go discover the wide world. But she stopped short in her fall as she was grabbed by a big hand, and heard a voice that was just as big say to her nicely but firmly:
“Where are you going, little doll? You’re lucky you’re made of cloth, because otherwise, you would have gotten quite hurt! You seem pretty eager to run off! Patience, little one!”
And the big fellow placed her in a nice warm spot in front of the fireplace, where she watched the last preparations taking place. Outside the wind was blowing, and little while snowflakes fluttered in the cloudy sky. That moment was etched into her memory, in her little cloth head. Her first winter memory. Her first winter. Her first memory.
That night, the big fellow put on a red coat and big boots, lifted up an enormous sack, and then said to her:
“Are you coming? It's time!”
Lana jumped into his arms, and they went outside into the icy wind. There, a team of reindeer was waiting for them, and, as soon as they got into the sleigh, it took off into the December sky, joyfully jingling little silver bells. Lana didn’t understand what was happening at all, but she soon found herself in a colorful house, at the foot of a big tree that smelled nice, like cough drops.
She waited all night long, wondering what was in store for her.
In the morning, two bare little feet ran across the room, two little hands suddenly picked her up, and a tiny little girl’s voice cried out:
Her new life had begun.
The years passed by, one Christmas followed another, little Mélanie grew, and Lana did not grow. Every day she marveled at waking up in the little girl’s arms, being clutched to her chest as she sang songs and told her troubles to her doll. Without doing anything at all, Lana had the greatest ability in the world to cheer her up, soothe a boo-boo, or chase away a nightmare. Every year, on the same date, she watched from Mélanie’s arms as new toys were discovered at the foot of the big Christmas tree. Sometimes she found new friends there, sometimes not. The big teddy bear arrived two years after Lana. He was very nice, but what a lot of space he took up in the bed! Fortunately, Lana remained the favorite. No bear, no doll was flexible or patient enough to stay hidden for hours in Mélanie’s book bag. There was no toy but Lana who accompanied the little girl everywhere: to school, to Grandma’s, on vacation, to the park, to the doctor's office...once she had even gone along to the swimming pool! But Mom got mad, and Mélanie never took her there again.
And then one year, a baby came to the house. He was very small and cried very loudly. Mélanie introduced them:
“Lana, this is Benjamin, my little brother.”
Benjamin was like a toy, but less fun. At first, it was still OK — he cried a lot, but he couldn’t move. And then he eventually learned how, and life became hellish. As soon as he grabbed Lana, she found herself covered with drool, mashed potatoes, or applesauce, and then she was dragged through the mud, chewed on, and she always ended up needing to be repaired and washed in the warm cycle. Fortunately, Mélanie always got involved before it was too late.
Before Benjamin turned five, Lana had survived five rips, twenty-six washings, thirty pounds of mashed potatoes, and at least fifty gallons of drool. She had always come out all right.
But one day, there was disaster. It was a classic Christmas Eve, with the scent of gingerbread, frosty patterns on the windowpanes, lights on the tree, and music that seemed to be played by the angels themselves. Lana was melancholy, because Mélanie had changed. She paid less attention to her and spent a lot of time talking into a device she held up to her ear.
That Christmas Eve, the doll waited on the sofa for the time to discover her new companions. But Benjamin was so excited by the holiday that he grabbed her and tossed her across the room, where she tumbled down without Mélanie reacting at all. It was as if she didn’t care.
Finally, it was time for presents. Benjamin got a remote-controlled truck that he immediately used to roll over Lana, who still lay on the floor, while Mélanie marveled at a kind of box that opened up, with a little screen at the top, and below a kind of tray full of buttons, which Mélanie tapped on with her fingers. Nothing interesting. Yet the girl seemed captivated, and forgot all about Lana, who was lying in the middle of the living room floor, lonely and a bit torn (yet again!) by Benjamin’s truck.
The next day, Mom picked up the wrapping paper and with it Lana, whom she carelessly tossed on top of a piece of furniture.
They must have soon forgotten her. For time passed and Lana, on top of the dresser in the living room, gradually became the prisoner of cobwebs and dust that gathered on her dress, which soon looked terrible. She spent a countless number of years there, and, although her view was hidden by the top ledge of the dresser, she gradually felt that her reference points were disappearing, that nothing was the same anymore. She no longer recognized Benjamin’s voice, and she no longer heard Mélanie’s. Their parents moved around more slowly, and their steps became sluggish and heavy.
But one year, Lana managed, after mighty efforts, to approach the edge to watch the big man who still stopped by to drop off new toys.
“Naughty man,” she thought. “So this is why you make us! To replace us and let us rot here with the spiders!”
But having come too close to the edge, she lost her balance and found herself lying flat on her back at the foot of the big Christmas tree.
“What bad luck,” she thought. “What’s going to happen to poor little me?”
In the morning, a whole family filled the living room. A young, very beautiful woman, on the arm of a man, and two little children who ran all around: a boy and a girl. Behind them came a very calm young man, followed by an elderly couple. The young woman's eyes fell on Lana.
She picked up the doll, brushed her off, and looked right into her eyes. And Lana recognized, with no possible mistake, the eyes of Mélanie. She had certainly grown up, the little girl of the past, and she was now herself a mother, but she still gazed at her like a little girl. Suddenly, Mélanie’s eyes, these very beautiful eyes of an eternal little girl, filled with tears, and she cried and cried, without being able to stop, holding in her arms what remained of Lana’s crumpled little body. Why was she crying? Lana didn’t exactly know, but it seemed that her little woolen eyes were also starting to tear up.
That’s when a little girl gently pulled on her mother's hand to see the doll, and, opening wide her wondering eyes, she exclaimed, “She's bootiful!” and hugged this little bit of cloth that had been so lonely, so sad...and was slowly being reborn.
Through the window, the wind was blowing very hard, and the frost drew icy patterns on the windowpanes. The air smelled like cinnamon and gingerbread, and there was as much warmth inside as there was cold outside. Lana remembered the day of her birth, so long ago, a Christmas day....
As of this day, the little girl and Lana were always together.
Lana has certainly known her share of Christmases! Just how many she’s not quite sure. But few were like this one.
Translated by Kate Deimling