Playing With Dolls

This past weekend we visited the American Girl Store for my daughter’s best friend’s birthday. Her mom is one of my close friends so it was a chance for us and our girls to get together. We were also pretty excited over the fact that our daughters were so excited to immerse themselves in all things doll.

As a child I loved American Girl. I first fell for them in Elementary School at the Scholastic Book Fair after noticing one of the “big girls” I admired carrying it around. She was consumed by it while she waited in line at the handball court. Changes for Molly was my first book and over the years I added to my collection and even got a Molly Dolly. My uncle had bought it for me. After months and months of flipping through magazines and playing with paper-doll versions I finally had my own doll. But it ended there. Molly’s accessories and furniture were not in my mom’s budget. She had splurged and taken me to an American Girl fashion show twice. At the fashion show while other girls walked around with their dolls, not having one yet, I instead walked around with a few books in tow and the excitement that came from going on a very special mother and daughter date. But when Molly and I finally did meet, for a small time we were inseparable.

And now, at eight, my daughter is doing the same thing I once did. She is falling in love with the novelty of the American Girl dolls and books. And while I think the prices are still quite costly and some aspects of the franchise are a bit over the top, seeing my daughter walk around with a doll nestled in her arms makes me happy inside. She still loves dolls. She nurtures her baby dolls feeding them and changing their diapers and now she dresses her American Girl doll, styles her hair and tucks her in bed at night alongside the rest of the bunch.

She asks me if she can take her doll with her and so far my response has been yes. At one point she wanted to take her out to eat and I started to say no, the doll was pricey and I didn’t want her to get “dirty”. I also lectured her about being careful combing her dolls hair so it didn’t get messed up (there are specific tools designed for their hair so she’s got a pick for the curly curls!). However, after revisiting both of those moments in my mind I experienced a reality check.

The day will come when she will sit her doll down and not pick her up again. The day will come when she no longer cares that her doll is dressed or tucked in bed at night. She won’t care if we venture out for a day and her baby isn’t with us. And my mind flashes to poor Woody and the rest of the toys in Toy Story when Andy stopped reaching for them…It’s another one of those moments that I just want to bottle up and save for later. It’s a moment worthy of a pause from the stroking of these keys in an effort to revisit it once more. That moment when dolls and dress up are synonymous with being a little girl. That moment where you aren’t too big, or too old, or too cool. That moment where you sit at a restaurant table with your best friend and the two of you feed your dolls and you name them and you promise to take care of them forever.

So now, each time she asks me if she can take her doll with her someplace I say yes. She can come. And she can comb her hair at the risk of making it frizzy if she wants. I want her to learn the importance of caring for her things but I also want her to enjoy her doll for every moment she so desires to do such. I want to watch as her eyes grow wide while she styles her hair and makes outfits out of pieces of fabric, and I want to listen as she forms stories about her little one. What’s the use of having a toy if she can’t treat it like a toy?

Her doll Layla (she names all her babies that), is yet another reminder of how fast time flies. The day will come when I will be picking her up off the floor or calling after her “You forgot your doll!” She will tell me she’s not bringing it and I will pull it to my chest inhaling in a final effort to breathe in all that is left of what once was.

Right now my baby is eight. She is eight and she loves dolls. Once upon a time I was eight and I loved dolls too. Now I am 29 and trying to get in the business of bottling up memories like the ones now the ones where my daughter plays with dolls. And names them. And nurtures them. And loves them.


p.s. I still have Molly but she’s been tucked away in a box for years. It may be time she and Layla meet :)

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