I’m so excited to bring you my doll version of Happy Birthday Molly by Valerie Tripp:
Molly McIntire was jumping rope outside of her driveway impatiently waiting for her friends, Linda and Susan to come. They said they’d come right after lunch.
Where are they? Molly wondered impatiently. She had some very exciting news and she couldn’t wait to tell them.
At last she saw them walking slowly. Susan was trailing behind staring at the ground trying not to step on the cracks while Linda walked slightly ahead of her, giving her impatient looks every once in a while.
“Hurry up!” Molly cried. And they both ran to her.
“Guess what! Guess what!?” Molly cried as they came near.
“An English girl is going to come live with us for a few weeks!”
“Ooh!” breathed Susan.
“What do you mean?” Linda asked as they walked closer to the garage where it was shady.
“A girl from London is coming because her parents don’t think it’s safe for her to live there anymore. She was going to stay at her aunt’s house but her aunt is sick with pneumonia so my mom told her aunt she could stay with us until she gets better.”
“I wonder why she’s coming now though,” said Linda, “England’s been at war for a while now.”
“Maybe her house got bombed or something,” said Molly.
“Oh, Molly, you are so lucky! A real English girl just in time for your birthday!” said Susan, “And she’s probably raggy and starving like the children in the magazines.”
“Not everyone’s a starving waif, Susan. She could be a princess for all you know.”
“A princess!” said Susan joyfully.
“Well, come on! Let’s go inside. Mom says she’s going to come today! Right before supper.”
The girls squealed to each other as they headed through the kitchen, then down the stairs to the basement where they had set up a bomb shelter using a table and an old blanket.
The girls had seen a newsreel about bomb shelters in England that looked like a steel cage. The thought of such a thing in your very own living room was terribly exciting and horrifying. They liked to sit in their homemade bomb shelter and pretend the house was collaspsing on them.
“It smells musty in here. Do we have to have this old blanket on the table all the time?” Linda grumbled.
“Don’t you remember in the newsreel? People rolled down the sides of the shelter to protect themselves when the bombs came.”
Susan reached for Molly’s water canteen, “Maybe the English girl has a bomb shelter just like this in her house in England.
“Do you think English people stay in the bomb shelters overnight?” Linda asked.
“I think sometimes they do,” said Molly, “I’d think they’d have to stay until the bombs stopped. Because if they came out too soon-”
WHAM!! Something heavy landed right above them making the table wobble.
BAM! The table was struck again.
“Bombs away!” they heard.
The girls looked at each other and giggled, “Ricky!”
Molly stuck her head out of the blanket, “Don’t do that!” But she didn’t mind much, because the thud of the ball made it easy to pretend there were real bombs.
“Some bomb shelter,” said Ricky, “this wouldn’t last two seconds if a real bomb fell.”
He bounced his ball on the table again.
Susan came out too, “This is just like what they have in England.”
“Like fish it is,” Ricky retorted.
“Just wait, Ricky,” said Molly, “when that English girl comes she’ll tell you about bomb shelters.”
Ricky groaned, “Just what I need, another dippy girl around. And Mom told me to tell you that she’s here. Upstairs.”
Molly and Susan squealed, “Linda come quick! She’s here!”
The girls tumbled over each other pounding up the stairs and into the kitchen. Molly stopped so suddenly Susan bumped into her.
There, standing by the kitchen table was the English girl. Mrs. McIntire was standing there with her arms on her shoulders, “Emily,” she said, giving the girl a little push forward,
“I’d like you to meet Molly. Molly, this is Emily Bennett.”
“Hi,” Molly said as she stuck out her hand and smiled.
Emily touched Molly’s hand with icy fingertips and whispered, “How do you do?” and then stepped backwards.
Susan pushed past Molly, “How do you do?” with a pull on each pant leg trying to curtsy, “I’m Susan. I thought English girls always curtsied.”
Ricky snorted and Molly and Linda giggled at Susan. Emily didn’t look up but her ears turned red with embarrassment. She thinks we’re laughing at her, Molly thought.
She moved toward Emily, “This is Linda. And here’s Ricky, my brother. I have another brother named Brad, and a sister named Jill. You’ll meet them later.
Everyone was quiet and then Mrs. McIntire said, “We’re very glad you’re here, Emily. You’ll get used to the names and faces soon. Ricky, would you take Emily’s suitcase upstairs? Molly, why don’t you show Emily your room.” She smiled at Emily, “It’s going to be your room too, Emily, for as long as you stay with us.”
A very quiet parade climbed upstairs. Molly studied Emily as she walked behind her. She was the skinniest thing she had ever seen. Even her gingery hair was as thin as spaghetti noodles. Her eyes and skin were so pale, as if she had never been outside.
Ricky put Emily’s suitcase on the bed and left.
“Well, here we are,” said Molly, “Do you want me to help you unpack?”
Emily shook her head no. She opened her suitcase and carefully lined up her socks and underwear in a drawer Molly had hastily emptied.
She worked in silence while her audience gazed at her, expectantly. Molly finally broke the tension by showing Emily her most treasured possession, her nurse doll, Katherine that Dad had given her for Christmas.
“You see,” said Molly, “Katharine is dressed just like a real English nurse.”
“A nurse? I don’t think so.”
“What do you mean?”
Emily straightened Katharine’s cape and said, “In England nurses take care of little children. Women who work in hospitals are called sisters. Your doll is like a sister.”
“Really? That’s great! I’ve always liked to pretend Katharine is my sister, and now it turns out she really is!”
Emily looked confused. She didn’t understand Molly was trying to be funny, “She isn’t your sister. She’s a sister.”
“Oh, well, whatever you call her, she’s beautiful, isn’t she?”
“Very nice,” said Emily, coolly.
A couple days later, Emily and Mrs. McIntire had gone shopping together so just Molly, Susan, and Linda had walked home to Molly’s house after school.
No one said it, but everyone thought Emily was a disappointment.
“Well,” said Susan, “At least she’s not a show-off. She’s just so..”
“Quiet,” Linda whispered and everyone giggled, “What is she buying anyway?”
“She has to get some sneakers, only she calls them plimsolls.
“Plimsolls?” said Linda. She pinched her nose and said in a hoity-toity voice, “Oh, Deah! My plimsolls smell simply dreadful.”
“I don’t think that’s very nice, Linda,” said Susan, “Did you ever think maybe Emily is quiet because she doesn’t like sounding so different? Or maybe it’s because she doesn’t know the American words for things. Of course, I still think it’s because she’s weak and starving.”
“Oh, she gets plenty of food,” said Molly, “she just doesn’t like normal food, like cake. She’d rather have things like sardines.”
They all tried to imagine not liking cake.
“Well, if Emily doesn’t want a piece of your birthday cake, I’ll take it,” said Linda.
That evening, Molly had a chance to talk with her mom about Emily.
“She’s awfully quiet, isn’t she? She never says anything.”
Mrs. McIntire chuckled, “Not everybody is a chatterbox like you are, olly Molly. English children are taught to be reserved – to be polite and quiet. Emily probably feels shy. Think what it would be like if you had to go to England and live with a brand new family.”
“But it seems as if she doesn’t like us. She won’t smile or anything, or play with me.”
“Give Emily chance, Molly. The whole world must have seemed cold and dangerous to Emily for a long time. The war in England has been going on for practically all of Emily’s life. I think Emily doesn’t realize it’s safe to come out and be herself now. I imagine quite soon I’ll have two chatterboxes on my hands.
But in the meantime, you be as warm and friendly and welcoming as you can be to Emily, okay?”
Mom made it sound easy to make friends with Emily but Molly wasn’t so sure it would be.
One evening, everyone was gathered around the kitchen table eating supper when Mrs. McIntire walked in.
“The days are getting longer,” she said cheerfully, “Spring is here.
And doesn’t someone in the family have a birthday in the spring?”
“I do!” Molly said, “My birthday is only a week away.”
“Have you decided what kind of party you want?”
“I haven’t decided yet. I’ve been thinking about it and – ”
Suddenly, a loud, shrill siren screeched.
“Hurray!” said Ricky, “A blackout!” He jumped to his feet and ran to the basement. Emily shrank in her seat.
“Oh, dear,” sighed Mrs. McIntire, “A surprise blackout. Jill, close the blackout curtains, Molly and Emily, please take Brad downstairs. I’ll be right down.”
Molly was halfway to the stairs when she realized Emily wasn’t following.
She went back to find Emily still in her seat as still as stone.
“Come on, Emily. Hurry up.”
Emily didn’t move.
“Emily, you can’t just sit there. It’s a blackout,” Molly noticed Emily’s face was white, “It’s okay, it’s not a real one, it’s just practice.”
Emily got up just as Mrs. McIntire came back with an armful of blankets, “We have these blackouts every once in a while,” she explained as they walked down the stairs, “They’re a drill for us as there’s not much chance of being bombed here, but we have to be ready just in case. But I imagine you know all about blackouts.”
Emily sat in the darkest corner of the basement, apart from everyone else. Even though it wasn’t cold, she was wrapped in a blanket. Molly sat next to her but couldn’t quite see her face.
“Sometimes they tell us beforehand about the blackouts. Then Mom makes a thermos bottle of hot chocolate..” Molly stopped. She saw that Emily was shivering.
“Emily? Are you okay?”
Emily sniffed. Molly realized she was crying.
“What’s the matter? Are you scared?”
Emily shook her head no, “I hate this. I hate sitting in the dark, waiting. In England, back during the Blitz, we had to do this almost every night. You’d hear an awful noise, then silence, and then a second later, an explosion. The whole house would shake. If we were on the street we’d make a dash for the tube station, subway, you call it. We sometimes had to sleep there all crowded together.”
Molly didn’t know what to say.
Emily went on, “But it was almost worse afterwards, coming out again. A house you’d walked past every day would be nothing but a pile of stones. Sometimes the flowers would still be along a path, and the path would lead to nothing. The house would be gone. In England the bombing isn’t exciting at all. It isn’t a game. It’s terrible. People and… things get hurt. They get killed. You Americans don’t know.”
Molly waited to make sure Emily was finished talking and then said, “I guess we really don’t know. We’re safe here. And now you’re safe too.”
Emily sighed, “But my mum and dad are still there.”
Molly knew what it felt like to be worried about someone far away, “My dad’s there too. I miss him so much my heart hurts.”
“Sometimes I feel like a coward to have left London,” said Emily.
“Oh, no. You’re the bravest person I know, after my dad. You had to endure all that bombing, and then being separated from your parents.”
“If I were really brave I would have asked my parents to let me stay,” Emily said sadly.
Molly wanted to make Emily feel better, “But even the princesses of England had to leave London. I read it in a magazine. You’re just as brave as those princesses, Emily.”
Emily let the blanket fall away, “Do you like Princess Elizabeth and Princess Rose too?”
“Oh, yes! I always love to see them in the newsreels and magazines. They’re so pretty. I even have paper dolls of them.”
“You do?,” Emily’s face brightened, “I have a scrapbook full of their pictures. Would you like to see it?’
“It’s in my bag under the bed.”
Just then the all-clear siren blew and the blackout was over.
“Let’s go!” said Molly.
“Yes indeed,” Emily actually grinned.
Up in their room, Emily sat with her back upright and Molly sprawled on her stomach looking at the scrapbook. “Of course, the princesses are practically grown ladies now, but when they were our age, they used to wear matching dresses,” Emily pointed to an older picture.
“We could do that!” said Molly. She jumped up, “We could dress alike, just as the princesses did. We could wear outfits that look like theirs too, Wouldn’t that be fun?”
Emily’s bright blue eyes shined, “We both have pink sweaters, and we could wear white shirts underneath.”
“Okay! Come on! Let’s put these clothes on.”
Molly watched as Emily buttoned each button on the sweater.
“How come you always button every button?” she asked.
“I keep forgetting how warm your houses are here. In England houses are much colder, especially Windsor Castle where the princesses live.”
“I suppose we are similar to the princesses. Our names start with the same letter – E for Elizabeth, and M for Margaret Rose, but if I really wanted to be like them, I’d have to get a dog.”
Molly jumped to her feet, “But I guess we’ll just have to pretend,” she bent down, “Here boy, good dog!”
Emily looked down at the imaginary dog.
“Let’s go for a walk Em- I mean, Elizabeth,” said Molly.
Just as they were heading out of Molly’s room, Ricky took a peek and smirked, “Why are you two dressed alike? It makes you twice as drippy as usual. What stooges.”
But Ricky and the rest of the family soon got used to Molly and Emily always wearing the same clothes and taking their pretend dogs out for walks on jump rope leashes. Molly even had the great idea to share her roller skates, each wearing one.
“It’s too bad we can’t get a pair of skates for you,” said Molly as she handed one over, “but they’re not making skates because of the war.”
“Oh, I don’t mind, remember, we’re princesses, and princesses never complain about the sacrifices they have to make.”
Molly and Emily dashed outside and skated up the driveway, waving to Mrs. McIntire as she got ready to dig in the flower garden.
“Hello, your highnesses, what’s all the giggling about?”
“We were thinking about skating in a palace,” said Molly.
“I wish you would think about what kind of birthday party you’d like to have. It’s less than a week away.”
“I know, I just can’t decide. I want to do something different this year.”
“How do you celebrate birthdays in England, Emily?” asked Mrs. McIntire.
“In England, we used to have a tea party and-”
“Ooh! A tea party! That’s perfect! Can we do that, Mom?”
“I don’t see why not,” Mrs. McIntire replied, “Emily can tell us exactly what to do.”
Emily glowed, “Of course I haven’t been to a big birthday party in a really long time. But I do rember we used to decorate the house and play games and eat lovely treats.”
“Like princesses!” said Molly, “It can be a princess party. Emily!” Molly suddenly had a great idea, “Would you like to share my birthday with me? We can start to make up for all the birthdays you’ve missed. We’ll be the princesses, you and me, and dress alike and everything. It’ll be the best party!”
Emily’s cheeks glowed pink as posies, “I think that would be very nice indeed.”
“Look! My dog is so excited he’s wrapped his leash around my legs!”
The very next day Emily taught Molly how to write proper English invitations:
“That’s wonderful. It’s so…so English,” said Molly.
“The only thing is, I’m a little worried because I’m not sure my friends will like tea. Maybe we should have hot cocoa instead.”
“In England it’s always real tea. I suppose you could put lots of hot milk and honey in the tea to sweeten it up so your friends would like it,” Emily offered.
“I suppose so.”
Emily went on, “In England we have tea sandwiches which are very thin, and the crusts are cut off.”
“Well that’s sounds okay. What’s in the sandwiches?”
“Meat paste or watercress.”
“Meat paste?” asked Molly, “what’s that?”
“It’s sort of like peanut butter, only it’s made out of ground up meat. Maybe ham or liver.”
“Liver?” said Molly horrified, “I don’t think my friends will like that.”
“Then I guess we could have bread and butter sandwiches.”
“You mean bread and margarine, since butter is rationed. But at least we’d still have a birthday cake.”
“Oh, no,” Emily said, “We don’t have birthday cake in England. We should have treacle pudding, or lemon tarts.”
“But cake is one of my most favorite things about my birthday,” Molly said disappointedly, “Are you sure that’s not what they would have?”
“Oh, yes, I’m sure.”
Margarine sandwiches, milky tea, and a lemon tart. Maybe this tea party was not such a hot idea after all, Molly said to herself.
“Well,” Molly decided to change the subject, “we should plan what we’re going to wear. I think I have some dress up dresses and we’ll have to make crowns for ourselves too.”
Emily laughed softly, “Oh, Molly, you’re thinking of fairy tale princesses. Real princesses just wear normal clothes. They don’t wear fancy clothes to a tea party. Only really special occasions. They’d just dress as usual for this.”
This was getting to be too much for Molly, “I’m not going to wear boring old school clothes to my party. All the other girls will be dressed up. I’m going to wear my party dress and that’s final.”
“But then we won’t be the same,” Emily replied.
All of a sudden Molly realized that Emily didn’t have a party dress. She squirmed. No wonder Emily wanted to wear normal clothes.
“Oh all right. We’ll wear regular clothes so we’ll look the same.”
Just then, Ricky came into the room and turned the radio on: “Battle weary Britons welcomed more American soldiers today. They call our boys ‘the Yanks.’ Everyone know it’s up to these Yanks to save England and the world from Hitler’s threat…:”
“That’s not true!” Emily cried, “I’m so tired of hearing how America is winning the war when England has been fighting ever so much longer!”
“Will you guys cut it out? I’m trying to hear,” Ricky interrupted.
But Molly was mad, “But it is true. England can’t win the war without America. Our soldiers are stronger than yours.”
“Oh, you Americans!” said Emily, “You always have everything your own way. You think you are so important!”
Mrs. McIntire interrupted, “Girls! England and America are allies, remember? I think you are both overtired and overexcited about this party. You two princesses take your imaginary dogs and go upstairs to bed.”
Molly and Emily stalked out of the room too angry to look at each other. Molly kept thinking about her party while she got ready for bed. It was supposed to be her party but now it was “Emily’s tea party.” She threw a candy cup on the floor.
“Don’t! You’ll ruin it,” said Emily.
“Who cares? Everything is already ruined and you ruined it. You and your dumb old tea party. I don’t want milky tea and lemon tarts! I don’t want to wear ugly old clothes!”
“Food and clothes!” Emily said back, “You don’t know what the war is really all about. You don’t even know what’s real. Making up a game like we’re in a fairy tale being princesses with fake dogs. You’re just a spoiled child!”
“Spoiled!” said Molly, “I was going to let you share my whole birthday. I let you talk me into doing everything the way you do it in England. In England! I’m so tired of hearing that! If it’s so great in England why don’t you just go back there?’
Emily responded by pulling the covers over her head. Molly thought she heard sniffles but she was too mad to care. I gave in and gave in to Emily, she thought, I’m not giving in any more. Tomorrow I’ll tell Mom we’re having a regular birthday party and Emily’s not invited.
When Molly woke up the following morning she found the sky to be dark and gray which matched her mood as she remembered everything that had happened last night. She felt bad about the mean things she had said to Emily. She had started by saying she didn’t want a lemon tart at the party and ended by saying she didn’t want Emily at the party. How did everything get so mixed up?
Molly sat up and looked at Emily’s bed. It was empty and perfectly made, as usual. Emily was in the bathroom.
When she came back and saw Molly was awake, she turned her head and looked the other way. Molly thought Emily looked sorry too.
Molly swallowed hard, “Emily…” she began.
But at that moment, the door swung open and Mom and Brad burst in.
“Happy Birthday! Happy birthday, Molly! Happy birthday, Emily!”
Mom gave both girls a big hug, “Jill, Ricky, you can come in now.”
Jill and Ricky walked slowly into the room. They were each holding a puppy in their arms.
“Puppies!” Molly cried, “Puppies! Oh, they’re perfect!”
Jill put one on Molly’s bed and Ricky put the other on Emily’s.
“We thought you two princesses deserved real puppies,” said Mrs. McIntire.
“Yeah, so you can stop acting like nuts, talking to dogs that aren’t there,” said Ricky.
Everyone laughed and Molly said, “Thank you! A real puppy! It’s too good to be true!”
Emily said her thanks too.
“We’ll leave your highnesses to get acquainted with your puppies,” said Mrs. McIntire.
Molly’s puppy reached up and gave her a kiss, “Emily! Look! Mine’s licking me!”
Emily was cuddling her puppy too, “It’s been so long.”
“What do you mean, ‘so long’?” asked Molly.
Emily put her puppy on her lap and stroked him, “I used to have a dog. I didn’t tell you before because…because my dog was killed. It was a year ago. My dog was trapped under a building that was hit by a bomb.”
Molly held her puppy even closer, “Oh, Emily, that’s horrible. I’m so sorry. I’m really, really sorry.”
She brought her puppy over to Emily’s bed, “You know, Emily, I think you were right about some of the things you said last night. The war has been harder for you. It hasn’t been real for me.”
Emily looked at Molly, “I wasn’t completely right. First, I thought about how much I missed my parents. Then I thought, I’ve only been away from them for a few weeks. Your father has been away for two years. I know you miss him very much. The war is hard for you too, Molly.”
Emily looked down at her puppy, “I think I’m going to call my puppy Yank. Because he’s a good American dog.”
“I’m going to call mine Bennett, after my good English friend.”
Just then, Yank started yanking on Emily’s bathrobe.
Both girls giggled.
The door opened and Mrs. McIntire stuck her head in, “If you princesses weren’t such lazybones, lying around in your pajamas all day, you would have found another birthday surprise in your closet by now.”
Molly jumped up and opened the closet door. Inside were two matching white pinafore dresses.
Molly held them up to Emily, “Look!”
Emily gasped, “They’re lovely.”
Molly ran to give her mom a hug, “Oh, Mom! Now everything is perfect. Thank you!”
“Thank you very much indeed,” said Emily.
When the girls got downstairs, they found the table all set up for the party and a half hour later the guests arrived.
Linda and Susan arrived in their best frocks and exclaimed over the decorations.
They played Pin the Tail on the Donkey and other games.
Then they sat down for an American/English tea party. They had tea and butter sandwiches, but also candy cups and cake.
Molly and Emily blew out the candles together.
“I think this is a very happy birthday,” said Emily.
Molly smiled back, “Very happy indeed.”
Molly and Emily played themselves.
Mrs. McIntire……………………………..Carlie Cullen