Unfortunate family incidents - the doggy v dolly face-off

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Let's go back to 1971 momentarily.

I am an average 4 year old British girl, lover of all things pink, dolly-fashion-guru, and slightly shy, but since today is Christmas I am the happiest girl in the world.
My main Christmas 'box' is a corker – Barbara the doll, all magnificent with her silver hair and blue dress, and boy do I LOVE her. High-Five Santa (in truth we didn't have High-Fives in the UK in 1971. Heck, we didn't even have McDonalds).

Fast forward a few days. We have returned home from school to find my mother acting in a very suspicious manner. She looks nervy and is wringing her hands. Instinctively I know that I am to be the recipient of some awful news. Someone has surely died. Please let it not be Folly, the pet dog. No, here she is, looking awfully pleased with herself and in perfect health.

ME: Has someone died Mummy?
MUM: Ummmm, nnooo. But in a way, yes.
ME: Who is it?
MUM: I'm very sorry darling, but it's Barbara.
ME (already gasping for air): W-w-w-what happened to her?
MUM: Follyateherfaceoff

She said it very quickly just like that, all one word, as if she were removing a sticking plaster and trying to do it quickly so that it would hurt less.

The trauma of this moment has remained with me for 40 years. I had not realised this until I began writing, and I am now finding great solace in recalling the moment for you as a kind of crowd therapy.

My initial instinct to pray that Folly had not been the one who had died quickly did a swift about-turn, but thankfully our ill-feelings were eventually set aside when Sonia came into my life. She was a buxom auburn-haired replacement for Barbara, who was entirely done-for. There is not a plastic surgeon in Hollywood who could have sorted that face out.

Parenting is a journey full of testing moments. Childhood is a journey that can teach you how to be a good parent. I wonder what things our children will remember when we have made the transition from one to the other?

Oh, and keep a weather eye on the family mutt this week……



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