‘This is the strangest thing to ever happen at the New Jersey DEA. Come to the precinct at once.’: Mom hilariously recalls Christmas gift gone wrong

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“Let’s journey back to December of 2015, when all my daughter Ellie wanted for Christmas was a real merbaby. Pearl…her strange skin, creepy eyes, and flowing green hair. I feel like enough time has passed that I can now reveal to you the entire Pearl Saga. I’m going to sketch it out for you.

Part I

December, 2015—Ellie dreams of having a mermaid baby. Not just a mermaid, and not just a baby. A mermaid baby. Being the adventurous gift-buyer I am, I searched and searched and finally found a hand-made mermaid baby doll on Etsy. In the pictures online, it appeared Pearl was wearing a veil of some sort. But no, it was her creepy and weird skin. When Pearl arrives, I am thrilled! I show her to several teenage students who react to her face in sheer horror. I ignore this reaction, knowing Ellie will love Pearl.

Part II

Christmas morning—Ellie wakes up and excitedly runs to the tree to find Pearl. Basically, she was like, ‘OMG, this doll is hideous. What is wrong with you, Santa??’ (Ellie later notes Pearl was her first indication Santa was not real.) Here is the video so you can see the real-time reaction.

Courtesy of Elizabeth Faidley

Part III

Post-Christmas—Ellie is so grossed out by Pearl she affectionately refers to her as ‘DisgustING.’ (We had just watched ‘Inside Out’). I come to the desperate conclusion Pearl’s hideousness lies in her strange, green locks of hair. I go to CVS and purchase two different colors of hair dye and attempt to dye Pearl’s hair from green to a ‘strong blonde.’ My attempts fail miserably and Ellie looks at me with pity for a few days. ‘Pearl’s hair is even more hideous, Mom. Please, just stop.’ Ellie’s babysitters have begun staring at my multiple ‘L’Oreal and Clairol’ kits. Ellie refuses to hold Pearl. I am, of course, devastated by my failure and more determined than ever to remedy it.

Part IV

The Doll Hospital—I locate a doll and teddy bear hospital in Secaucus, NJ. I call them immediately and discover it is run by a group of very strict and serious Germans. They take their doll and teddy bear hospital very seriously. They are interested in seeing Pearl’s ‘condition’ and then will give me an estimate for all of the cosmetic work which needs to be done to make her ‘lovable.’ (Poor Pearl.) I ask Ellie to bring Pearl on the airplane to Tennessee. Ellie refuses, pointing out Pearl’s many, many hideous traits.

Part V

Sending Off Pearl—I pack Pearl up in a box and address it the doll hospital. I tell Ellie that Pearl is going off to the hospital to have her face and hair ‘adjusted.’ Ellie wisely informs me, ‘Pearl has even greater problems than those.’ Then, she proceeds write on the box, ‘Please, please, help this doll. She has so many problems.’

Courtesy of Elizabeth Faidley

Part VI

Four Weeks Pass—I hear nothing from the Germans. Clearly, they want nothing to do with poor Pearl. I call a few times and ask about a price, offer to send money, etc. They keep forgetting who I am until I say, ‘My doll is Pearl, the…merbaby.’ Then the Germans say, ‘Oh, God. Yes, okay.’ I finally get a (very expensive) answer and immediately send them more money. The work begins.

Part VII

The Phone Call—I was at MSM teaching on a crisp January morning when my phone rang out of the blue. I ignored it and then listened to the message between students. It was a detective from the Secaucus Police Department. He really needed to talk to me—’immediately.’ I called him back right away and he demanded I come down to the precinct at once. (I thought ‘precinct’ was just a word they use on ‘Castle’ and ‘Bones,’ but it turns out real detectives use it too.) Anyway, I told the detective I couldn’t leave teaching (DUH) and asked what this was about. I informed Detective Sigmund I do not DO make-up lessons and would not be leaving my school. He didn’t seem to understand.


The Big Reveal—The detective tells me the Germans called the police down to the doll hospital that morning. When they removed Pearl’s head to repaint her offensive skin, they found two ounces of COCAINE. STUFFED IN HER HEAD. The detective first suggests the drugs are mine. I adamantly argue, and insist I have never seen cocaine in my life. He relents, agreeing it would be strange for me to stuff cocaine in a doll’s head and then ship it off to an expensive doll hospital. Then, in what is probably the strangest conversation of my life, the detective asked me what was ‘up’ with Pearl. Did a weird uncle put drugs in Pearl’s head 30 years ago and then I inherited Pearl?

I explained what Ellie wanted for Christmas, how I found Pearl on Etsy, and why I shipped her off to the Germans. The detective then said, ‘You spent money on this doll? Have you ever heard of Ariel? She is a pretty mermaid. You can buy her at any Disney store.’ And I said, ‘DETECTIVE, Ariel is a GROWN-UP mermaid. Ellie wanted a BABY mermaid. She will not be fooled by a fake baby mermaid!’ The detective said it seemed challenging to be Ellie’s mother, and then went on to reveal this is the strangest thing to ever happen at the DEA in New Jersey. After obtaining all my Etsy information, he hung up and went to work. I called Andrew Kirjner into my studio and told him I was probably going to jail. I called my mom to alert her detectives from the DEA might be coming by to search the house for more drugs. She laughs and laughs and laughs.

Part IX

The End—After ‘running’ my ENTIRE family through the ‘system,’ detective tells me neither me or my parents have any drug convictions, and they do not believe the cocaine came from us. (PHEW!) The New Jersey DEA and Alabama DEA are now working together to plan a ‘sting’ on the doll maker in Alabama. Then he said, ‘I’m sorry to disappoint your daughter, but Pearl can’t come home. Ever. She is going to be locked away in evidence awaiting an international drug trial. Sorry.’ I hung up the phone and told Ellie, ‘Honey, Pearl is going to stay at the doll hospital for longer than we had anticipated. It turns out she has…many problems.’ Ellie nodded and said, ‘I told you, Mom. The doll is MESSED UP.’

The End. Everything we do for our children…we try to get the best Christmas gift and accidentally buy a merbaby stuffed with cocaine and become embroiled in an international drug-smuggling ring. I hope all of your holidays—Christmases, New Years—are exactly what you planned. And are mermaid- and-drug-free. And if cocaine accidentally shows up under your tree, know I understand and you tried your best.

Happy Holidays! Love, Elizabeth.”

This story was submitted toLove What Mattersby Elizabeth Faidley. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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