For the month of November, I will be participating in National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo). I will be writing a post a day (in addition to my regular schedule) with prompts Monday — Friday. Today’s prompt was, “What was the one toy that a friend had that you wished you had when you were little?”
As a preteen, I became obsessed with the American Girl dolls. Surely, you know what they are: 18” dolls of a girl from a different era, all fantastically expensive ($110 now, $80 then), and all coveted by nearly every girl – even those like me who claimed we didn’t like “girly” things.
I came to the American Girl franchise obliquely through their books. At the time, there were only Felicity, Kirsten, Addy, Samantha, and Molly, who were from the Revolutionary War, the early 19th century, the Civil War Era, the Victorian Era, and World War II respectively. I loved these dumb, formulaic books, each about a “big girl” problem that our intrepid young adventuresses would nonetheless be able to “solve” within 75 large-fonted pages. I eagerly gobbled up descriptions of their birthday treats, their special outfits, their heritage gifts, and their accessories. Once I subscribed to the catalogue, I became a true fanatic, spending hours lying on my bedroom floor circling items and outfits, cutting them out and pasting them in my scrapbook, and making the ultimate American Girl collection by combining all five sets (and some of the more modern pieces, of course). I even began writing stories about them, either as themselves, as my friends, or as my dolls. It was an obsession.
Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to get an American Girl doll. They were too expensive, and my parents were rather stingy with gifts, especially at this time of my childhood. Their marriage was crumbling, and we were having mounting financial problems. Despite the fact that I managed to save up for my own doll and accessories, they nevertheless deemed it too extravagant and refused to make the purchase. Supposedly, they were teaching me a lesson about fiscal responsibility, though I’ve yet to see how. So instead, I swallowed my want, threw away my scrapbooks, and let the catalogues pile up unread. It was better to try to forget than to want unrequited. And besides, I reasoned, I was getting too old for them.
A couple years later, I became close friends with a girl named Brittany, and on the first visit to her house, what did I see but Molly the American Girl sitting in her own rocker in the corner? I can still picture Brittany’s room with its full-sized high bed at a diagonal in the right corner and Molly in the left corner, the first thing you would see as you entered the room. She was in her plaid school uniform and silver wire frames. There were no other dolls or accessories.
As far as I can remember, I never tried to play with Molly or engage with Brittany about her or the American Girls. I brought them up once, but Brittany had clearly moved on and, at 14 years old, I felt embarrassed that I hadn’t either. But I always wanted to pick her up and to pretend that she was mine, to create an alternate reality in which I could have the things I desperately wanted.