Coincidence and Irony in Bride Doll for Christmas

One of my most memorable childhood gifts came when I was five years old on Christmas Eve in 1961. Dressed in my “Sunday best” outfit at my grandparents’ farm house. This picture captures my memory. But irony and coincidence also lurk invisibly in the background of this image.

We had just feasted on Grandma Esther’s Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes, lefsa, and rutabagas, followed by glorious home-made sweets. Great Aunt Helen always gave us the best gifts. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I peeled away the wrappings and found … a Bride Doll … a large, fancy one! (Aunt Helen knew her dolls—she collected antique dolls, houses, and furniture.) From the flouncy layers of lace to the pearl-drop earrings, every detail of my new doll was beautiful.

My sister, Cindy—dressed in her favorite attire of jeans and t-shirt—is darting around in the background of this scene. In her big-sister, tomboy way, Cindy let me know that dolls, dresses, and weddings were stupid. Grandpa George, sitting in his corner chair, was snapping pictures of the holiday melee. No doubt, he was teasing us to further stir up commotion.

The irony:  the following summer Cindy was a flower girl in a wedding of family friends. I was SO jealous that Buzzy, the bride, chose Cindy for this role, especially on the wedding morning when Cindy threw a fit about putting on her fancy dress. When she got sick on the way to the ceremony, I timidly hinted that I could take over her role. But no one listened to me. Cindy carried on with her flower-girl duties. I was fascinated with the magical garden wedding. Buzzy looked like a fairy princess with her handsome groom, Jon.

The coincidence: 28 years later Buzzy and Jon became my in-laws! I married their first son, Jay, who was born ten months after their wedding. That was 30 years ago. Jon passed away in September 2018, shortly after their 56th wedding anniversary. After that, Buzzy moved into a care facility near us, and we enjoyed having her close these past two years. She and I enjoyed telling this story to people in her new community. Sadly, she passed on September 27, 2020 after complications from a fall.

As 2020 draws to a close, this story commemorates Buzzy, Aunt Helen, and all my family members who are gone but live on through our family tales.

What Can We Learn from 2020

Many of us see 2020 as a year of losses and dashed expectations. In addition to Buzzy, we lost two close family friends in 2020. Our son’s college graduation was cancelled. COVID crushed my book launch plans. And I watch my mom from afar while she was isolated in long term care.Solstice Sun Lady

Despite these losses, I received some unexpected gifts. For example, COVID led to Zoom visits with my mom. From these visits, we began to share her life stories on Facebook. Our trips down memory lane bring us both joy and purpose when so much seems hopeless. Also, I’m learning new storytelling skills. My story listening skills grow as I prompt her with questions to spark her memory and shape the narrative. Using her voice and perspective, characters, time, and place come to life. Her words flow through me like magic … my muse is very present.

In these dark days of winter—when social distancing feels never-ending—I turned to wisdom from ancient cultures who embraced the Winter Solstice. They treated the solstice as a turning point, an ending and a new beginning. The winter months were an opportunity to slow down, turn inward, cultivate patience, and prepare for the next cycle of life. The ancient Nordic and Celtic rune, “Isa,” symbolizes the lessons from ice/winter. It is a time to go within—not only indoors, but deep inside yourself. They viewed winter as a period of restoration and renewal at the deepest level. Isa also signals hope in that “the seed of the new is present in the shell of the old.”

“The Winter Solstice is the time of ending and beginning, a powerful time–a time to contemplate your immortality. A time to forgive, to be forgiven, and to make a fresh start. A time to awaken

—Traditional Yule Prayer


  1. Sharon Lehrman on December 22, 2020 at 7:40 pm

    What a magical story, Jean! I just love how you set the stage, and then the big reveal! Wow, you married their first son, that is just crazy! And I love your sentiments about the winter solstice. Such a great way to frame the end of the year we are experiencing. Here’s to a safer, saner 2021. Take care! Sharon L

  2. Peter on December 22, 2020 at 4:42 pm

    As always, I am full of admiration for your story-telling ability. I now know your big secret: Jay is 5 years younger! What can I say but “Coo coo ka joo Mrs. Robinson!” A very Merry Christmas to you (none of this “Happy Holidays” crap) and here’s hoping for a much better 2021. Peter

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