A baby doll’s life

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 28, 2001

Features Editor

Annie Mary Whatley was only 5 years old when Molly came to live at her house.

On this Christmas Eve, Molly celebrated her 78th birthday. The day after Christmas Mrs. Whatley celebrated her 84th birthday and, as they have for all these years, they celebrated both together.

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"Some people might think it’s silly that Molly is so precious to me," Mrs. Whatley said. "But, they just don’t know what a joy she has been to me since that Christmas Eve night she came into my life. It was the most memorable Christmas I have ever had and I like to relive it every year on the night before Christmas."

Mrs. Whatley’s family was very poor and had few of the comforts of life. But, they always had food on the table and the love was never in short supply around their house.

"I never had a Christmas tree until I was grown," Mrs. Whatley said. "We just had a sprig of holly over the fireplace. And, on Christmas Eve, daddy would go into the woods and cut extra fat lightard so we could have an especially bright fire to warm us on Christmas morning. Mama would hang her cotton stockings on the mantle so Santa Claus could fill them for my brother and me."

A few nights before Christmas, Mrs. Whatley and her brother would sit quietly by the fire, listening for the brownies to come.

"When we would hear them on the rooftop, we would throw our notes to Santa Claus in the fireplace" Mrs. Whatley said. "When they burned, the ashes would fly up the chimney and the brownies would gather them and take our notes to Santa Claus."

This one special Christmas, Mrs. Whatley had wished and hoped for a baby doll. Early

on Christmas morning she went to take a peek.

"In the flickering of the firelight I could see my baby doll sitting on a piece of wood," she said. "She was the most glorious doll I had ever seen. I knew she must have been the most beautiful doll that had ever been in Ramsey’s Dime Store."

Mrs. Whatley’s brother came rushing into the room to see what Santa had brought him.

"He was older and I think he got marbles, a toy truck and, I know, a harmonica," Mrs. Whatley said. "We both got apples, oranges and raisins with seeds on long stems in our stockings. I was proud of my stocking, but I couldn’t take my eyes off my doll. Right then and there, I named her Molly."

Mrs. Whatley’s daddy put more wood on the fire and a plug of Bull of the Woods chewing tobacco in his mouth. He pulled a rocking chair up close to the fire and took little Annie Mary in his lap.

"I held Molly so tight," Mrs. Whatley said. "She was so precious to me.

That was the most wonderful feeling in the world to have my daddy’s strong arms wrapped around me and mine around my precious little Molly. Daddy rocked us and I fell fast asleep. That was the most wonderful Christmas anyone could hope for."

From that day forward, Molly and Mrs. Whatley have been inseparable.

"She’s been with me through all these years, through all the ups and downs, the joys and sorrows," Mrs. Whatley said. "She has been a joy and a comfort. Some people might think that’s silly, but it’s not to me. Molly has been my something to cling to. She is a jewel to me."

Only once has Molly been away from home.

"I let the children play with her and they pulled out all of her hair and her face and arms and legs were cracked, Mrs. Whatley said. "And, she wouldn’t say mama anymore. My cousin was visiting from Florida and she asked me if Molly could go home with her and I said no because she had never been away from me."

However, when Mrs. Whatley learned what was in the plans, she let Molly go. Molly

got a makeover. The cracks in her face and body were fixed and she got a little wig to replace her hair.

"She came home with dark hair instead of blond, but her little face wasn’t cracked anymore and she was as beautiful as the night I first saw her face in the firelight," Mrs. Whatley said.

On Christmas Eve, Molly and Mrs. Whatley waited by the fire for Santa to come. He came to both of them – the oldest "little" girl in Pike County and her mama.

"We’re both getting old now and one day I won’t be here," Mrs. Whatley said. "Someone asked me if Molly was going to be buried with me and I said, ‘No, she’s too pretty and precious to bury.’ But I hope I can find someone who will love her and cherish her like I do."

At 84, Mrs. Whatley has known much love in her life. And, there has always been enough love in her heart for a little doll named Molly and although she’s a "wooden" head, Molly has given love in return.