Wednesday, April 06, 2005

american girl doll

There it was, bigger than life but almost hidden behind the antique water tower building, nestled next to the conveniently-located computer store! I was now face to face with The American Girl Doll Store in all its glory!

I have gotten their catalogs for years and enjoy looking at all the varieties of dolls. Each little girl depicted is from a certain time in history and her clothes, accessories, and furniture are well researched and accurately portrayed. The dolls come with a set of books that are written to give the new doll's owner a better understanding of the times in which her doll lived.

My friend Kyle had introduced me to American Girl Dolls when I first got to know her daughter, Elizabeth. Elizabeth owned Samantha AND every single item that Samantha needed to really be Elizabeth's best friend...authentic Victorian outfits, a poster bed and wardrobe, even an elegant tea service, neatly spread across a demure linen and lace tablecloth, miniature of course.

I remember looking at the whole set-up in awe. I also remember that I had my 3 youngest boys with me when we saw Elizabeth's dolls and I looked at their puzzled faces, wondering what they were thinking. Mollie was long past dolls when the boys were born and you could tell that they knew they could not touch anything, though I am sure they were wondering why Samantha didn't have any clothes that came in camoflage!

So now, here I was, actually walking inside the American Girl Store, up close and personal, actually seeing all there was to be purchased, a dream come true for a grandmother who FINALLY has a little girl, one perfect little girl, to spoil with American Girl Dolls!

I looked around and could hardly believe what I was seeing...dolls, furniture, a beauty shop where little girls could have their hair styled to look like their dolls and even a clothing store where outfits that match those of the dolls could be purchased. And it was at that point that I knew one day I would bring Penelope into the world of American Girl Dolls.

Penelope IS my American Girl Doll. We always said that we knew Clayton would be the first to have a girl, a girl who was really girly, a girl who would wear pink and have enough hair for ribbons and bows, a girl who most likely would not want to experience the mandatory red welts that come with paint ball.

And then, nearly a year ago, she joined our family. Lovely Penelope, perfect Penelope, the little girl of our dreams. She is demure, she is vaguely amused by the antics of the boy cousins, she is subtle and totally femine. Like her mom.

So why would anyone spend this outrageous money on a doll? The American Girl Doll phenomena is truly amazing and even though it has an incredible marketing strategy, I have found myself drawn into it, applauding this company from the sidelines. They have managed to sustain littlegirlhood for tens of thousands of young girls who otherwise might be flung headfirst into Barbie Dreamland. I think this is a good thing.

I was six when the first Barbie doll was born. In a few years all of my girlfriends, Diana, Crystal, Janet, the Perelli twins, all of them, came to slumber parties swinging their pink Barbie totes, complete with black and white swimsuit-clad Barbies, their long blonde acrylic ponytails neatly meshed to their perfect Barbie bodies. How I longed for a Barbie, how I wished to look like Barbie, perfect body, perfect clothes, perfect life in a perfect Midge-for-a-best-friend life.

Christmas came and my mother knew how desperately I longed for a Barbie. There, under the tree, was a box that was just the right size and beside it were several smaller square packages, just the right size for Barbie outfits. Alas, I opened the box only to find a Carol Brent doll,the Montgomery Ward Barbie spin-off, dressed in a blue suit and with fashion accessories! However, the Carol Brent doll was a mammoth of a fashion doll, a size 16 font, to Barbie's petite size 9, complete with her plus-size clothing line and body-enhancing accessories. I was devastated but my mother convinced me that any girl would be proud to own the entire Carol Brent set so I dutifully drug Carol along to the next slumer party. "Here comes Karen Allen," the twins said, "with her Amazon Barbie!"

It was at that point in life that I decided that being a fashion icon was something I should not aspire to become. I decided that being funny trumped being beautiful. And, though my friends didn't know, I went back to my Tiny Tears doll.

Years later when my first baby was born and I held her, oh so tiny and pink in my arms, I experienced that familar rush of motherhood that I had experienced long ago with my baby dolls, a feeling I never had when I dressed Carol Brent, or even when my friends let me dress their Barbies.

I am glad that the American Girl Doll Store is here, sending out catalogs and inspiring little girls to BE little girls, encouraging them to read history.

And one of these days I will buy two train for Penelope and one for me. We will ride to Chicago and take a taxi to the American Girl Doll Store where I will purchase the "best friend" of Penelope's choosing and maybe I will get one for me as well. (I especially like Kit, mostly because I want to have Kit's hair and I love sweater sets!)

Then Penelope and I will have tea and carry our full shopping bags home again where we will have even more tea. I will read history to her and we will play with our dolls. And I will encourage her to enjoy her time being a little girl and I will tell her how wonderful it is to be a wife and mommy and a grandmama. I will inspire her to write her own history on the pages of her life, history that is so much bigger than Barbie accessories, one that will bring joy and meaning to those around her, one that will glorify the living God who created Her in His image. Oh, and I will convince her that being funny is best!


At 12:20 PM, Blogger Stacie said...

I can't wait for those times when we will be close enough for you to take Penelope to Chicago and the American Girls store. If Penelope were older she wouldn't be able to wait either :).


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