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December 8, 2010

Kelly Simmons on Being Spoiled

Posted by Anonymous
KellySimmons.jpgKelly Simmons is a former journalist and the author of STANDING STILL (Simon & Schuster, 2008). Her new novel, THE BIRD HOUSE --- which follows a grandmother and her granddaughter as they share their family secrets --- will be arriving in stores on February 1st. Today, Kelly reflects on what it really means to spoil one’s children --- and shares a humorous yet heartwarming story about her seemingly eccentric mother-in-law.
Early in December the year I was six, my mom, who was frequently ill, announced that she felt well enough to take me shopping for a Christmas dress. 
The errand itself was a gift, so seldom were the two of us alone together. We oohed and ahhhed over the holiday lights and crèches on the way downtown, and we stopped to appreciate the display of ornaments twinkling in the store’s lobby before heading up to the children’s department. As soon as I stepped off the escalator, I saw it: A dress so pink and sparkly, it beckoned all the way across the store. There was a satin-backed row of sequins at the neck, and glittery strands of yarn shot through the fabric --- as if it had fought with a tinselly tree and won. I remember some kind of jewel dangling from the hemline, a beaded curtain that passed into another, more grown-up universe (like a brothel). Why my mother even let me try on a dress straight out of Toddlers & Tiaras, I will never know. In the mirror, my smile was wide and her frown was deep. “Absolutely not,” she said, and insisted on buying a pale green, velvet number instead. I went home and pouted for hours. I pouted at dinner. I pouted in my sleep…until the pink dress showed up in a fancy box the next day, with a card that said: “From Guess Who?”
How my mother refrained from killing her own mother I will never know. 
She was well aware of my grandmother’s excesses by then --- especially considering the menagerie of life-size stuffed animals in my room and the bookshelf full of brand-new books. And then, the shiny dress hanging in the closet.
My first daughter was born a few weeks before Christmas, and we hadn’t been home from the hospital more than a day or two when my husband’s mother brought over a wrapped gift, holding it out to me proudly. 
Ah-ha, I thought, let the spoiling begin!
“These are just some baby clothes that have been in the family,” she said.
I opened the parcel carefully, imagining hand-knit Irish sweaters and crocheted christening gowns. Inside were patched corduroy overalls and onesies that used to be white, and now were, well, the color of ancient spit-up. Like a baby mummy had worn them. I have something for you, too, I wanted to say: THE GRANDMOTHER’S MANUAL. In which it states that all granddaughters must be indulged with things pink and sparkly. That they must be given huge portions of candy at every holiday, even Flag Day. They must be schooled in excess, not taught to, well, recycle.
“Wow,” I said. 
“I know they’ll come in handy.”
Yeah, I thought. Maybe someday I’ll put them in a blog post.
“What’s wrong with your mother?” I railed later at my husband. “Doesn’t she know she’s supposed to buy her first-born grandchild huge stuffed animals?”The following Christmas, Grandma seemed to have gotten the message. At first. My daughter unwrapped an enormous stuffed turtle that, upon closer inspection, appeared to have a broken neck and a small stain on its shell. I whispered to my husband that we needed to exchange it for a fresh one. “Not possible,” he said grimly. Why? Because she’d picked it up at the “Take It or Leave It” section of the town dump?
“I don’t think there’s any chance your mother will be spoiling our baby girl,” I sighed later that night.
“Sure she will,” my husband replied. “Every Christmas, she’ll buy her anything her heart desires. As long as it comes from The Hospital Thrift Shop.”
To learn more about Kelly Simmons and her next novel, visit And don’t forget to check back with the Holiday Author Blogs tomorrow, as Elizabeth Rosner shares the story of a special Hanukkah gift.