It was a warm autumn evening. Stars glittered overhead. A cloud scudded across the moon, veiling her face. A little girl stood on the Rialto Bridge, staring at the lush flowers and bright fabrics for sale. Gentle jazz blew down the Grand Canal, then caught in a web of stone and light spanning the water. The little girl's mother tugged gently on the child's hand, pulling her in to a small store. The little girl followed, tired but too interested in the stranger sights and smells to protest.
Within were many small knickknacks, all authentic Venetian items. The little girl was old enough to know about the value of things from far away. She also knew that this was a very special trip and her parents might be convinced to buy her something special to remember it by. She wandered for a few minutes, trying to keep herself from growing too bored while her parents looked at grown-up things and talked about grown-up matters.
Then the little girl saw the dolls. They were small, most no longer than the child's arm. Each had a white face carefully painted with red and black - a clown's face, but one fit for kings or queens. Each also wore fine clothing, patterned with diamonds and cheerfully colored. Some of the dolls were sad, some were happy, and some seemed rather aloof from the physical world. None were the least bit silly.
The little girl was utterly enchanted by the figurines. She longed to hold one, even if she would be afraid of dropping it. She spun around in search of her mother (her father didn't approve of little girl playing with dolls). There she was, trying to talk to the man who ran the shop. The mother's Italian was terrible at best. The little girl made her way carefully to the woman and asked, as politely as she was able, "Mommy, may I please have one of those dolls?"
"Which dolls, pumpkin?" the mother asked, kneeling down to be on the same level as the little girl.
The child pointed. "The clowns," the little girl said, feeling guilty for belittling the elegant figures she so longed to possess.
"Harlequins, not clowns. Perhaps you can have one," the mother said thoughtfully. "Let's go pick out your favorite."
The little girl smiled. "I want this one," she said certainly when they reached the dolls. She pointed to a doll in pink with many hued stripes in a triangle on the front. The doll also wore a striped hat with gold trim and had a ruff of white feathers around its neck. It was baby faced with full cheeks and a tiny nose. There were stars in the doll's eyes and a tear spilling from the left eye. She was not a happy doll, but she was not sad either. She was a realistic doll, a true doll, a doll to grow with and keep for the ages.
"Pink?" the mother asked uncertainly. The little girl did not like pink, had never liked pink, would definitely never in a million years consent to own anything at all pink.
"I looks pretty," the child replied. "Plus, you have a doll that your momma gave you."
"And I gave it to you," the mother reminded her daughter.
"Can I please get this one, mommy? Please?"
"Fine," the mother said with a smile. "Your own italian doll from Venice."
"Thank you, mommy!" the little girl exclaimed, throwing her arms around the woman's waist.
After the doll had been bought and paid for, the little girl carried it triumphantly from the shop. Jazz continued to play, the stars continued to shine. The little girl looked once more at the festive bridge, decked out with flowers and elegant clothing. Lights gleamed as the tourists drifted away for the night. The little girl smiled and held her new doll close.