Boy, if you'd told me I'd be getting a Mrs. Beasley doll in the mail this year, I would have called you crazy. But it happened to me just yesterday! And here's how!

For those of you who are too young to remember or have been living under a rock for the past 30 years, Mrs. Beasley is the doll Buffy used to carry around on the TV show Family Affair, and when I was a little girl, only Barbie was more popular! I treasured my own Mrs. Beasley doll, and some of my fondest memories of childhood are of the many hours I spent in my room pretending to be corkscrew-curled Buffy, living in that luxurious Manhattan apartment with Jody, Cissy, Uncle Bill and Mr. French after my parents had died in a car crash!

Then, a few years later, when I was 13, I came home from school one afternoon and found several toys missing from my room, including Mrs. Beasley. I went to my mother, who was in our basement rec room playing hearts with her neighbor friend Mrs. DiMartino, and asked her where my toys were. I'll never forget her answer. "I took them down to St. Vincent de Paul," she said, her Pall Mall wiggling up and down in her mouth as she spoke. "Now, don't start wailing. You're too old for toys. A girl your age with bosoms as big as yours doesn't need playthings."

Well, you can guess how upset I was. I raced back to my room, threw myself on my bed, and bawled like a baby! I didn't come out for the rest of the day, except to eat dinner and watch That Girl.

The next day, I went to St. Vinnie's to try to get my toys back. I did find my Mrs. Beasley, but the witch behind the counter wouldn't let me have her unless I paid a dollar. When I told her that the doll actually belonged to me, she gave me this big lecture about Christian charity and how Jesus would be against just giving the doll away. And I didn't have a dollar because my parents never gave my brother, my half-sister and me allowances. So I had to part with my beloved Mrs. Beasley forever and face life without her.

Or so I thought!

Yes, after all these years, Mrs. Beasley and I have finally been reunited. And it's all thanks to eBay, this great on-line auction web site. (Don't ask me why it's called eBay... Whatever the reason, it's oKay with me!)

I first heard about eBay this past Friday from Sharon, one of my co-workers at SouthCentral Insurance. She told me she'd gotten a rare Star Wars action figure for her husband's birthday through eBay for just a few bucks. "It's like this big flea market where you bid for things like an auction," Sharon said, "only it's all done through cyberspace!"

It didn't take me long to put two and two together. "Do you think they would have Mrs. Beasley dolls for sale?" I asked.

"I don't see why not," Sharon replied. "They have just about everything!"

Well, I fidgeted in my seat all morning, just itching to get on-line and check out this wonderful site. Now, the only computers at work that are set up for Internet access belong to the supervisors, and I could have waited until I got home to log onto my own computer, but when your old pal Jean has her mind set on something, it's impossible to stop her!

I waited until Doris, my supervisor, went on her lunch hour, then I tiptoed into her office and got down to business. Sure enough, dozens of Mrs. Beasley dolls were for sale! I found just the perfect one in mint condition. There were five hours left until the auction closed, so I registered, placed my bid... and crossed my fingers!

The afternoon crept by like molasses, and I just couldn't wait to get home and see if I'd won my doll. About 45 minutes before quitting time, however, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around, looked up and saw Doris, and behind her was her supervisor, Mr. Thalacker.

"Could you please come into my office, Jean?" Doris asked. I knew she wasn't being sociable, because she wasn't smiling.

Doris shut her office door, and, with Mr. Thalacker looking on, she asked me if I'd been using her computer. Thinking fast, I said yes but only because I wanted to check some data I thought I might have entered incorrectly yesterday, and I was having trouble accessing it from my computer. (Okay, so your old pal Jean isn't above a little white lie every now and then. Besides, it was for a good cause—Mrs. Beasley!)

Mr. Thalacker frowned and said, "Jean, we have a detailed record of the computer's usage history for today, and it doesn't show it being used for anything of the sort. We did, however, find that someone spent nearly 40 minutes on-line, and that this person registered for eBay under your name; received a verification e-mail containing your name, home and work telephone numbers, and home address; placed a bid for a doll under your name; and, finally, neglected to shut down the Internet browser." (Oops! Nice one, Jean!)

Mr. Thalacker told me that the office was cracking down on non-managerial-level employees who were using the Internet for non-work-related purposes. Furthermore, he added, because I was using my supervisor's computer and had lied about what I was using it for, and because I had used company property inappropriately on more than one occasion in the past, as well as some other stuff I'm too embarrassed to mention, he had no choice but to inform me that I was... fired.

Well, you'd better believe that took the wind out of my sails! But then I remembered just how much I disliked my job, so I didn't feel so much guilty as mad.

So when Doris asked me if I had any questions or comments about their decision to let me go, you know what I told her and Mr. Thalacker? I told them it's not like I'd shot anyone or ripped off computers or extorted money from work. I told them I never dreamed that nearly 30 years after the lady at St. Vincent de Paul wouldn't give me back my cherished Mrs. Beasley, I would be fired for buying back the same kind of doll, and fair and square at that! I told them that maybe some people feel threatened by a grown woman who still has a little bit of childhood wonder left in her and hasn't surrendered all of her personality to being a robot-like adult who is weighted down under a pile of boring, mindless data-entry busy work!

Well, I must have knocked those two know-it-alls for a loop, because they just sat there in silence with these confused looks on their faces. (Sometimes I get kind of poetic when I talk, and some people are too unimaginative and narrow-minded to understand it.) Then, after a long pause, Doris said the decision to let me go had been made, but that I had a right to come in and file a grievance with the Human Resources Department next week. I replied that I had no interest in filing a grievance with Human Resources next week because I would be too busy playing with the Mrs. Beasley doll that no one will ever again take away from me. Then I turned around and walked out the door, never looking back.

Even though I'd lost yet another job, I really never felt more free in my life. (I only wish I hadn't started bawling during my big speech!) I was so proud that I stood up for myself, I couldn't wait to tell hubby Rick about it. He knew how much I disliked my job, and I was sure he'd sympathize with me. Ha! Guess again! He got so worked up about it, you'd think the world had come to an end!

"You lost your job over a lousy, stupid doll?" he yelled. "And I just sank a couple grand on a down payment for a new pickup! Nice going, Jean. This will probably be the leanest summer we've had in 20 years of marriage, and that includes the summer of '82, when that storm blew a tree down on our mobile home and we didn't have insurance to cover the damage! You're a complete lunatic, you know that? Why don't you grow the hell up?" (Ouch! But I'll take that last remark as a compliment, Rick!)

Anyway, Rick's just being a big old grouch. I know we'll get by, just like we always do. (It's like we're charmed!) And, sure enough, just to prove my point, as I logged onto my home computer, I received the terrific news from eBay that the Mrs. Beasley doll was mine! And now, as I proudly put her up on the top shelf of my curio cabinet, I'm totally convinced that this was the best 200 bucks I've ever spent!