An old Advent calendar that had belonged to Gran when she was a girl counted down the twenty-five days until Christmas for Tulie. As she opened one of the little paper doors each morning and saw the tiny picture of a star or a candy cane or a bell, Tulie imagined her own pictures instead. Very often the picture she imagined was the doll in the blue gown. Other times, it was a vision of one of her paper dolls dressed as one of the four March sisters.
For the past two Sunday afternoons, the four friends had gathered in Tulie's room to work on their play. Tulie wrote the script which she pointed out was so sensible since she had read “Little Women' five times. Brenda and Winsome had only read it once.
Freddie said he had never read the book. “It's a girl's book,” he proclaimed and Tulie didn't say a word but she knew he had read it because he borrowed it from her. Twice, in fact. Freddie claimed he was an expert on the story because he had seen all three movie versions of the famous story. He launched into one of his long dissertations on the stars of the films, the fact that one version, the oldest, was in black-and-white and told them over and over again all about the costumes, of course. As he talked, the girls just nodded and kept busy at their tasks. Tulie pecked away at the keys on her old typewriter. Brenda colored costumes and Winsome meticulously cut them out.
Then Freddie said something that made Tulie stop typing. Brenda paused her coloring and Winsome put down her scissors.
“Why don't we have a club, a paper doll club?” That's what Freddie said. “We could meet every Sunday afternoon and do plays and make outfits. Maybe I could go on the web and Google paper dolls and find out more about them and do little reports.”
“That's a great idea, Freddie! I'm surprised I didn't think of that myself,” Tulie enthused. Then she suddenly got serious. “Who'd be president of the club?”
Brenda, Winsome and Freddie looked at each other, nodded, grinned and, in unison, said, “You, Tulie, you.”
“I accept,” said Tulie with a great big smile of satisfaction. “I'll draw up a whatchamacallit.”
“A club charter,” interjected Winsome.
“Yes, a charter. With rules, of course. Real official.”
“What kind of rules?” asked Brenda, suspiciously.
“Oh, just about being on time and tidying up my room afterwards, putting the cut-outs away neatly, that kind of stuff,” Tulie said, already feeling a lot like a president.
“What about dues? Clubs usually have dues, don't they?” Winsome asked.
“No dues!” decreed the president who was still hoping to save fifty dollars so she could go back to “Collectibles Cupboard' at the mall and haggle some more with Herb.
“What about a name for the club?” asked Winsome.
“How about “The Paper Doll Club?'” Brenda suggested.
Tulie thought that was such a boring suggestion that she didn't even acknowledge it. She didn't much like Freddie's suggestion either. “Honorable Friends of the Paper Doll Society' sounded too snooty even though Freddie pointed out that they were friends and they were honorable and the dolls were made out of paper, weren't they? Maybe just “Paper Doll Friends?' Then it popped into Tulie's head. She remembered what Gran had told her what paper dolls used to be called by kids in the olden days when Gran was a little girl. Cut-outs! The perfect name for their new club.
“The Cut-Out Club!”
Tulie's declaration met with resounding approval.
“Shouldn't we like, vote on it?” asked Winsome. “I belonged to some clubs in California and that's how things were done there.”
“Not necessary,” said Tulie, who was certain she knew better. After all, she was president of the “The Cut-Out Club', wasn't she? Winsome wasn't the only one who knew a thing or two about how clubs work. “I'll just call the first weekly meeting of “The Cut-Out Club' to order and we'll all go on doing just what we're doing. Having fun!”
All those in favor, say “Aye,'” piped-up Winsome in an official-sounding voice.
It was unanimous.
* * *
That evening Tulie and Gran were having dinner at the big kitchen table. It was only six o'clock, but already very dark outside. As they ate tuna noodle casserole with Gran's secret ingredients of cashew nuts and raisins in it, Tulie told all about the new club. She didn't mention that it was Freddie's idea, but did go into great detail about her presidency. Gran was very interested. Tulie suspected that Gran was especially pleased not to be hearing anything about the usual dinner table topic of conversation, the doll in the blue gown.
As Tulie got up to clear the dishes, she looked out the big kitchen window. It looked like the whole world had turned into one of those glass snow globes and a giant had given it a real good shake. “Wow, Gran! Look at the snow. It's starting to come down real hard. Maybe there won't be any school tomorrow!”
Gran laughed. “Christmas vacation won't be here soon enough for you, is that it?” Then she frowned and pursed her lips. “I just hope it doesn't come down too fast for the road crews. I worry about your mother driving home from Wal-Mart in bad weather like this. Those old tires on her car aren't good on slippery roads. She really should have new snow tires.”
“Why doesn't she buy them?”
“Snow tires don't grow on trees, Tulie.”
“She could use her discount, couldn't she?”
“Even with a discount, she couldn't afford new tires. But Brenda's dad, Mr. Jackson told me he has an old set in his garage, good as new he says, that he could sell her. Maybe Uncle Bob's Christmas card will come to the rescue. It should be getting here soon. Your mom keeps looking for it in the mail every day.”
Tulie knew that Mom's bachelor brother who lived in New York City always sent money in his cards. Fifty dollars, every Christmas. Tulie wished she was Uncle Bob's sister instead of his niece who usually got a book. It wasn't that she didn't like books. She loved them, especially the classics that she got from him. Last Christmas, it was “Jane Eyre.' But this Christmas she sure could use fifty dollars in cash.