When I opened the package on the morning of my eighth birthday I was horrified to see an ordinary Sindy instead of the expected glamorous Barbie. I am quite sure Sindy was placed on a shelf in my bedroom where she aged rapidly from lack of use.
But my friend Rita had several Barbies and a Barbie house with a miniature tv and cute furniture and even an iron and ironing board and a kitchen with the tiniest pots and pans imaginable and Barbie had an extensive wardrobe in her beautiful bedroom and fabulous shoes and combs and roller skates and tennis racquets and of course Barbie had Ken. We spent hours on Rita's bedroom floor pushing Ken and Barbie around in a convertible before they climbed onto horses and rode off into the sunset. Barbie looked stunning in her jodhpurs and riding boots.
I suppose in retrospect Rita was more of a Barbie while I certainly felt like a boring and dull Sindy. Rita had blond curls and wore unusual American clothes. She moved to Ireland for one year with her parents and older brother. In those days nobody did anything as adventurous as that.
Rita's mother never seemed to do any housework and while my mother lugged groceries out from town, usually in the pouring rain, Rita's mother had the most expensive store in town deliver to their door. She usually wore long dressing gowns and swanned around the house with a martini glass in her hand. Rita's dad did calligraphy most of the day or worked on model trains in a room specifically for that purpose. I rarely saw him until dinner time. Rita's brother seemed to think that I would have made a wonderful nurse and liked me to administer tiny candies to him as he lay in bed pretending to be sick.
Sometimes I was invited to stay for dinner and eat food that we never ate at home. A box of goodies regularly arrived from America that contained Twinkies and Lucky Charms and Chocolate Chips and Pink Marshmallows but their sweetness tasted strange to me and I wished that I could have shared Rita's obvious enjoyment.
When the year came to an end I cried at the thought of losing my friend. But when she told me that she was leaving her entire Barbie collection behind I felt sure that I would be the first choice. I could not sleep with excitement as I imagined her bringing over the dolls, how I would feign surprise at the fact that I was deemed good enough to receive them. I planned how I could start the whole dating process with Ken again and knew that I would be the envy of every girl I knew. But Rita's mother had a different agenda, she gave every single Barbie item to the orphanage. My mother said that Rita's mother was a saint and that she would have all the luck in the world for her good deed. After that summer I never played with a doll again.