Buttons ‘The Doll Who Couldn’t See’

Buttons was a stuffed doll. She had a little felt mouth, a turned up nose, and brown embroidered eyes. She wore a red wool coat with lots of tiny black buttons. Her hands were short and stubby and her feet stitched into tiny leather shoes. Long strands of black yarn were twisted into thick braids that hung over her shoulders and she had a tilted velvet hat pinned to her head.  She sat propped up in the display window of  Oliver’s Toy Shop

Lots of other toys, of many different styles and shapes, sat beside her on display. Oliver’s Toy Shop was a privately owned establishment, it’s proprietor was old Mr. Oliver. He had a big workshop out behind the store and there he employed half a dozen workers to help him in crafting all the pretty toys for the store. He had never stocked toys from big department stores and so his little shop had grown in a popularity all its own. For people could expect unique pieces that could not be found in other places. Some folks even took the train to the little town of Maplewood from many miles away just to visit the toy shop.

Everyday Buttons would watch from her place in the window at all the people coming through the door. Little children with their eyes wide with wonder would gaze all around, not sure where to look first. Mothers would smile, filled with happiness at the children’s delight. Now, no time of the year is busier than the fall and it seemed everyone from everywhere was looking for the perfect gift. This, one of the older dolls had told Buttons, and all through the summer she looked forward with wild anticipation to the season where some sweet girl would want to take her home.

Until those days arrived, though, she was content in waiting and enjoying the companionship of her fellow toys. This, naturally, was not void of some envy. Ever since Mr. Oliver had placed him on the shelf, Buttons had quite the fancy to a handsome tin soldier. His uniform was so bright and he had such a sincere expression. But any hope of talking to this becoming toy was quickly erased. For a perfectly, lovely porcelain shepherdess, on a gilt music box, was placed beside him. After that, he never even bothered to look around, much less at little Buttons. He would fill his day staring with that devout expression at the beautiful shepherdess as she twirled around as if floating to the delicate strains of her music.

 Buttons looked down at her stubby little hands, how she wished they were thin and delicate like the shepherdess’s. Or at least, if she had a face like the beautiful china doll that stood next to her. What a perfectly lovely doll; her face was pale with rosy cheeks, and beautiful golden ringlets fell across her alabaster forehead. She even had big blue eyes, and looked almost like a real girl.  So it was no surprise to Buttons when her darling neighbor was chosen right away by a little girl in pink satin. Oh, how the little girl squealed with delight and ever so carefully stroked those curls, the biggest smile lighting up her face as she walked out with her mother, the doll clutched to her chest.

Not all the toys chosen were so expected, as Buttons noticed the next day. A small child asked to see her, what great anticipation flooded her little cotton stomach, would this little dark eyed girl by her new owner? But after only looking at her, the little girl talked to her baby brother, who seemed to want something different. So they chose that terribly annoying Jack-in-the-box that sat coiled down in the corner, always loving a good laugh he popped out at the worst times. Still, the children seemed to find this humorous and with happy faces the two left with their father.

Many customers continued to come, spending long hours perusing and most often leaving with a brown bag stuffed with some present for a dear friend. It was only a week later when a young couple came in. They fell so much for both the soldier and the shepherdess that they chose to buy them both and exchange them as presents to each other. This, Buttons thought, must have pleased both of the toys very much. But, happiness for her friends and their new homes began to wane as more and more of them disappeared. She felt lonely sitting on the shelf with so few toys and a nagging sense of dread, which started at her little shoes, was slowly reaching her heart. 

She knew Mr. Oliver always closed the shop for two weeks after Christmas and her worst fear was that, if no one would choose her, she would have to sit all alone in the dark shop fully abandoned for that season. At night, already, it was feeling lonely and if a little cotton doll could have cried, then Buttons certainly would have. Still, everyday she tried to brush away those feelings and smile even brighter and look even more pleasant. It was so frustrating that people, although they would stop to look at her, would never take her down, or want to buy her. Perhaps, she thought, the tag tied to her shoe showed a price too high for most, but surely not. Although she could not read, she realized that many of her old neighbors had more digits on their tags than what were on her’s. 

At last she was compelled to admit that no one wanted her because she must not be pretty. Oh, why couldn’t Mr. Oliver had made her stunning? Why couldn’t he have made her perfect? Why did he think it was a good idea to make a homely little doll? Which would forever be lonely and never ever find a home with some little child to love and care for her. These thoughts proved so gloomy and sad, that the last few days before Christmas seemed impossible to endure. She had stopped trying to look more pleasant, for no one would want a ugly doll, even if it had a pretty smile. Those last few days people rushed in and out at even greater speed than before. Although she had told herself she had given up all hope, her little heart would skip a beat everytime little eyes gazed up at her. 

Christmas Eve came, and the day was very, very long. Little Buttons watched the long and short clock pointers go round and round till, at last, twilight had faded into dark and the warm street lamps had been lit outside. 

Overcome with terrible emptiness and grief as the last shopper left, Buttons fell flat on her face and wept inside. She could still hear the muffled sound of Mr. Oliver as he dismissed his workers, thanked them heartily and gave them their holiday bonus. She heard him close the workshop and then clump into the toy store. 

“Now,” he was saying, “To close it all up, ah but I forgot one last thing.” 

She heard him rummaging behind the counter. Then, to her great surprise, he came over, picked her up and carefully put her into the brown paper bag. 

“Yes, perfect,” he said.

So many thoughts filled Buttons little head as she jostled around in the back of Mr. Oliver’s carriage. Why had he brought her out of the shop? What was perfect? What would happen?

She felt the warmth of a cozy fire as, tucked under his arm, they came into what she surmised was his home. Elegant voices of women could be heard talking merrily and little children’s giggles and squeals came in plenty.

She heard the pattering of a little pair of feet run up to Mr. Oliver. 

“Oh Grandpa,” the little one cried, “Do you have a present for me?” 

“Yes, my dear little Nellie, I do, but this is a very special present. I made it just for you. I know you will love it like no one could have. And, since you’ve such a good little girl, you can unwrap it tonight!”

Nellie squealed with pure delight, and Buttons felt her package handed to the little girl. How carefully the child unwrapped the paper, her tiny hands shaking with excitement and then she came face to face with Buttons. Her delicate face was effused in pure admiration, delight and wonder. As if Buttons had been even prettier then the china doll and the shepherdess combined. Nellie spoke in a hushed reverent whisper, ‘Oh, Grandpa, she’s perfect, and she’s really mine?”

“Yes, my dear, she is yours. Take good care of her. I knew you would see what others might miss. I knew you would love her very very much!

‘What’s this?” asked little Nellie, as she pulled the tag from off Button’s shoes.

“Oh this,” replied Mr. Oliver, “This is the tag I put on her so one would have her but you. I put her in the window but I was saving her for you. Many other children wanted her but this tag kept them from buying her.”

Button’s little heart felt like bursting with love. Now it all made sense, she hadn’t been ugly, she had been made special by the hands of Mr. Oliver. Something unique and beautiful, for he never made anything ugly. She had been waiting alone not because no one wanted her, but because it was for Nellie she was made and Nellie who could so quickly see the beauty that her grandfather had crafted into Buttons! 

Nellie stared at Buttons, rocking her gently back and forth, mesmerized by this precious gift from her grandfather. With still a reverent whisper she said. ‘I think I will name her Belle, for she is the most beautiful doll I have ever seen!’

Belle sighed and for the first time in many months relaxed. She now knew the truths that had evaded her so long, the truths she couldn’t see before; she was beautiful, she was loved, and she was home.

-Mindy Moyer


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