The best thing about Thanksgiving, besides Gran's cranberry-chestnut stuffing and her pumpkin-pecan pie, was the little two-day vacation from school. The O'Briens, like most of the families in Garfield, had their Thanksgiving feast early in the afternoon. Gran said that was so everybody would have room for leftover turkey sandwiches for supper. Mom said it was so the men could watch football games on TV. But since there were no men in their house, Tulie guessed Gran's reason was the right one.
The Lee family had accepted the invitation to celebrate with the O'Briens. The ÔLotus Lee Chinese Restaurant' was closed for the day and Mom said Mrs. Lee deserved a day off from cooking. The Lees arrived carrying a bouquet of big yellow chrysanthemums and a plate of fortune cookies individually wrapped in red and gold tissue paper. The flowers immediately became the centerpiece on the dining room table that Tulie had already set with Gran's very best china and silverware for the occasion. She also had ironed all the lace-edged napkins herself early that morning.
When everybody had finished second helpings of turkey and somehow managed to save room for big pieces of pie, they cracked open the cookies.
“Your secret wish will some true, but you will not recognize it at first.” That was what Tulie's fortune said on the little strip of paper inside the crisp golden fortune cookie. Tulie knew her only secret wish was for the doll but surely she would recognize it if it somehow magically turned up under the Christmas tree as she hoped against hope that it would.
Mr. Lee went home to watch the big football game and Mrs. Lee stayed to chat with Mom. Gran insisted on washing the good dishes herself but she allowed Tulie and Winsome to dry them as long as they were very careful. They were. When that task was done, they went up to Tulie's room to hang out. There wasn't much to do on Thanksgiving afternoon. It wasn't long before Freddie joined them, and then, Brenda, too.
The four friends sat cross-legged in a circle on the floor like Indians in a pow-wow. Everybody except Tulie talked about the big parade they had watched on TV that morning. Tulie turned-on her expert imagination and pictured a parade that she bet was even better than the one on TV.
“I liked the Rockettes from Radio City, all in a long line, dancing and kicking, at totally the same time,” said Winsome. “Not one of them ever gets a step wrong. Do you think they must like, practice all the time?”
“Oh yes,” agreed Brenda. “I thought their outfits were pretty, those red velvet short little dresses trimmed with white fur. So Christmasy! I wish I had one.”
“Me, I like the Broadway stars riding on the floats,” said Freddie. “When I'm a star I'm going to be sure to wave right at the camera. Everybody in Garfield will see and wish they'd been nicer to me.”
“But it's those huge balloons that make the Thanksgiving parade so special,” said Winsome.
“Did you see how many people it takes to hold them down?” asked Brenda. “The guy on TV said windy days like today are really dangerous.”
“I heard that one year a big balloon got away and floated all the way to New Jersey,” said Freddie who always seemed to have the best story, no matter what the subject was.
“Gee, maybe one will fly all the way to Ohio someday,” Winsome said.
Tulie imagined how exciting that would be. “What if it floated right down here in Garfield and got so low it hit the old weathervane on our roof! I bet the newspaper and the TV station would come and interview me.”
“Why you?” asked Freddie.
“Because it landed in my yard, of course. And my picture would be on the front page of the Garfield Gazette, probably. And I bet Macy's would pay me a reward. A big reward! Maybe even a hundred dollars and then I could buy...”
“That doll!” Brenda, Winsome and Freddie all said at exactly the same time. Tulie went to the window and looked at the dark gray sky.
“Are you looking for a big balloon?” Freddie teased.
Tulie was, but she said, “Don't be silly. I was just wondering if it's going to snow.”
“Oh, I totally hope so!” exclaimed Winsome who had never seen snow in California. “Maybe we'll even have a blizzard!”
Despite the fact that Tulie loved blizzards and building snowmen and lying down in the big drifts to make angel shapes, she announced, “That would be a big waste.”
“Why?” asked Winsome.
“Because school is already closed for the holiday. It's better to save the snow days until later in the winter when it seems like spring is never, ever going to come.”
Brenda and Freddie nodded in complete agreement.
“I wish it was tomorrow already,” sighed Tulie. “Then we'd already be at the mall and we'd be looking at all the Christmas decorations.”
“And having lunch at the Food Court,” added Brenda. Tulie knew Brenda was probably starting to wonder whether it was too early to ask for a turkey sandwich.
“We all know what you'll be having, Brenda,” teased Freddie.
“Burgers and FriesÉand super-size that, please!” shouted Tulie and everybody laughed.
“Lots of kids from school will like, be at the mall tomorrow when Santa Claus arrives at Bannister's Department Store,” Winsome said.
“He's coming in a helicopter. Did you girls know that?” asked Freddie.
“Everybody in town knows that. It was in the Gazette,” said Tulie. “Besides, I think it's kind of dumb for kids our age to be waiting for Santa Claus to arrive.”
“Yes, other kids might see us and think we still believe in him,” Brenda chimed in.
“I wish I did believe in him,” sighed Tulie. “Then all I'd have to do is write a letter to him at the North Pole like I used to when I was little.” She had done the next best thing to writing to Santa. Tulie had sent for a catalogue of fashion dolls and left it lying open all around the house, any place she thought Mom would notice it. The trick didn't seem to work because Mom never so much as glanced at the catalogue. Every night Tulie herself poured over the glossy pages before she went to sleep. She had memorized every word describing a certain doll. It said:
BLUE MOON, Doll and Costume.
Auburn-haired 16-1/2” vinyl doll with fully poseable joints, dressed in a star-studded blue velvet gown. Complete with tiara, necklace, earrings, gloves, shoes, faux-fur stole. $99.95 plus SH.
Tulie had figured out that SH meant shipping and handling. That was another $6.50. She needed a total of $106.45. She kept her life savings in a fancy carved little wood box that her dad had brought back from Thailand when he was in the army. No matter how many times she counted it, it turned out to $23.48. Even if she had $106.45, she couldn't buy the doll. Christmas was coming soon and she wanted to buy something nice for Mom.
“Tulie, didn't you hear me?” Brenda's voice intruded on Tulie's thoughts. “I said we could go over our Christmas shopping lists again.”
“We did that last week-end and the week-end before. Our lists haven't changed since then,” said Freddie.
“Why can't we play with your paper dolls, Tulie? They are like, so cool,” said Winsome.
“Yes, why don't you like them any more?” asked Brenda.
“Oh, they are okay if you don't have real dolls, I guess,” Tulie grudgingly admitted.
“I think they're better because you have to use your imagination more with paper dolls than with real dolls,” said Freddie. “And Tulie O'Brien, you're supposed to be the one with the great imagination, aren't you?”
“What do boys know about dolls?” Tulie asked, but was sorry right away because she saw Freddie start to blush with embarrassment. “I mean, you know all about art and stuff, Freddie and the paper dolls are more like art than dolls. That's all I meant.” Oh, why couldn't she ever remember what Gran always said about thinking before she spoke?
Freddie got up and went to door. “I think I'm going to go home. There's something I want to watch on TV tonight.”
Brenda and Winsome got up too and said it was late and they thought they should go home too. When her three friends left, Tulie got out the shoebox of paper dolls, took off the lid and just stared at the pretty little cardboard ladies.