The Tale of Charlie McCarthy

You know how you hear stories told time and again, throughout your child, and those stories become the fabric that makes the quilt that is the story of you?  This is one of my stories.  Well, not mine exactly, because it didn’t happen to me, but it is a story that I heard so many times, I think I had it memorized by the time I was freshly hatched!

My dad was a little boy, and Christmas was coming.  My grandmom, his mother, asked him, like mothers everywhere do, what he wanted for Christmas.  My father gleefully answered that he wanted a Dolly Darfy.  She asked him a few more times, and each time, she got the same answer.  My dad wanted a Dolly Darfy.

Christmas was quickly approaching, and my grandmother searched everywhere for the mysterious Dolly Darfy.  Store clerks looked at her as if she had two heads.  Neighbors suggested a boy shouldn’t be playing with dolls.  Row after row in shop after shop, the Dolly Darfy remained elusive.  And when she’d go back home, tired and frustrated, she’d ask my dad, “Wouldn’t you like a baseball glove, Johnny?” “No, I want Dolly Darfy!”  “How about some roller skates?” “No, Dolly Darfy.”

Christmas came, and under the tree, there were all sorts of wonderful gifts, but the sadness on my dad’s tiny face told the whole story – there was no Dolly Darfy.

At some point after the holidays, my grandmother had my dad in tow while doing some shopping.  She let him wander over to the toy department of a local shop, and she heard him yelling excitedly, “Dolly Darfy!  Dolly Darfy!”  My grandmother rushed to see one of these mysterious Dolly Darfys, and when she arrived at my father’s side, there it was.  When a three year old asks for a Dolly Darfy, he means Charlie McCarthy, the famous Edgar Bergen ventriloquist dummy that was wildly available as one of the most popular toys that Christmas.

As I said, I heard this story often.  It was told every Christmas in our house, just like “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” is told in other homes.  We heard the story at practically just about every gift giving occasion.

And then there was eBay.  I searched for months, trying to find one that might have been available when my dad was a kid.  Even eBay couldn’t help me there.  When one would pop up over the many months of searching, it became much too rich for my pocketbook.

I finally settled on a Juro 1968 version of the much told about doll, and excitedly purchased it for my dad.  I can feel the heat from the radiant beam that crossed his face even now, all these years later.  I don’t think Ann, my stepmother was as pleased that I found yet another item to collect dust in the house, and the grandchildren, well, terrified just about covers their feelings towards poor old Charlie.

And now, he lives with me.  My stepmother, long tired of dusting the old guy off, wrapped him safely in plastic and brought him to our house.  I sit on the fence, debating whether or not he’s a keeper.  The story and the memories are so real, I don’t even need to hold Charlie in my hands to feel the excitement my dad felt when he was a small boy.

But while the internal debate rages on, I sure do like looking at him, remembering the joy he brought to my dad, even after 60 years.