Sunday, September 6, 2009


I've worked with some really awesome people over the years, in a lot of different places. I've worked in convenience stores, gift shops, architectural firms, doctors' offices, and, of course, theme parks. My former co-workers have shown incredible patience with me, even though I have subjected all of them to an exercise I call "Bonding Questions." You've probably all worked with somebody like me who will demand the room's undivided attention and then ask, "If you could have dinner with only ONE person from all of time, whom would it be?" Or, "What was your best day EVER?" What usually follows is a bunch of eye-rolling and exasperated groans. But then, slowly as we go around the room, these wonderfully intricate, heartfelt stories begin to emerge. I LOVE it!!

We had a lot of down-time during my last gig at Terminator 2/3D at Universal Studios. Imagine a tiny, dark, backstage space filled with actors, stunt people, and technicians. Our ages ranged from eighteen to fifty. Enter Joan and her dreaded "Questions of Bonding!!!" One of my favorite inquiries is, "What is your favorite Christmas gift EVER that you received?" My boss told the hilarious story about his single mom, who was very weary of buying non-appreciated gifts for her many children. So, one year she wrapped up a giant box of CASH (all singles!), much to the delight of him and his siblings!! One girl talked about the Christmas she turned thirteen and received her first make-up kit, then proceeded to spend the rest of day applying blue eyeshadow to herself, her brothers, and the cat. Another guy mentioned the year both his parents were unemployed. They sat him and his two sisters down in early December and told them that Santa was going to have to make some cut-backs, so they'd be receiving only one present each that year. We all watched as this big, grown man fondly described in detail the one present he and sisters received, and how each gift was so perfect and so lovingly thought-out by his parents, they didn't want another.

My favorite gift was Tubsy. Tubsy was a happy plastic doll made by Ideal Toys. She came with a tub, towel, and plastic magnetized bear that, when held near her belly, would make her arms move and splash the water. Tubsy splashed. That was about it. It was in early August when I first learned of Tubsy's existence. Her ad appeared during a Bugs Bunny cartoon commercial break. I was completely entranced with her (the doll SPLASHED, for cripes sake!!) and talked about her in great length right up until December 24th. I know this, because there is a story my Dad tells every Christmas season. Apparently, as he was tucking me into bed Christmas Eve night, I sat up, grabbed his arm and gasped, "Dad, I REALLY hope Santa brings me Tubsy!!" Now, you must understand that my Dad's role in the Christmas shopping duties was to work three extra jobs to help pay for toys for five children. My mom did the actual shopping. So, legend has it that Dad left my room, descended the stairs two at a time and said to his exhausted, beautiful wife, "Tell me we got that child Tubsy!" Mom laughed and assured my father that she had, indeed, acquired the doll sometime in early September when my daily Tubsy rantings became more than she could bear. Of course, Christmas morning was glorious as I opened my precious treasure. I played with Tubsy for many years, long after her battery-powered splasher subsided and, after an unfortunate "dropping incident," her right leg no longer remained attached.

But the reason Tubsy was my favorite gift isn't because she was such an awesome doll (did I mention she actually SPLASHED?). It's because every single year my Dad tells that Christmas Eve story. I mentioned earlier that I am one of five, closely-aged children. Dad missed out on a lot of our childhood because he was working his ass off to help pay for ballet lessons and softball uniforms. His memories of us as kids, understandably, blend and blur quite a bit. But for some reason, he remembers every detail of that night at my bedside. All these years later, usually Christmas Eve night after our traditional peel-and-eat shrimp feast (his favorite), Dad will begin, "I remember that ONE year..." I lean back and smile broadly as his words cover me like a warm, soft blanket. My favorite part is how he always ends it: "When Mom told me that she already had Tubsy, I breathed a HUGE sigh of relief! I could just picture myself going out in the snow on Christmas Eve night to every toy store in Cleveland, trying to find that damn doll for Joan!"

I still have Tubsy. She sits in a prominent place on a shelf in my guest room, her broken leg semi-attached in the appropriate hole. When I pass by, I always stop and plant a kiss on her happy little face and say, "Thanks, Tubs." She knows why...

Thanks for reading!


Erin said...

I love this story! It made me smear my eyeliner :)

Jen said...

Yes, the Tubsy story is always immediately followed by the vanity story with the "where's mine?" line.

Dad's eyes do always light up when he recalls Tubsy.

Kathy B said...

Beautifully told.

Alan said...

Tubsy Rocks!

Alexis Antof said...

Wow,I was about to sell my Tubsy to help pay the rent. Now I'm not sure I can.

Shan said...

I'm so glad the limb is semi-attached in the *appropriate* hole or this story would have taken an unexpected turn, haha.

Odd that I don't have a favorite Christmas gift of mine (not that you asked... ). What I remember most is my youngest brother (I'm one of three who grew up in the same home... with four more in other places) getting his Push 'N Go truck one year. Probably a big reason for the fond memories has to do with the retelling, too... and the Polaroid of him grinning ear to ear with blurry arms banging on the box before it was completely unwrapped.

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