She revealed that her dearest wish was to have an American Girl doll. But we already knew this.
A few weeks ago Zoe was looking at books on cd with me at the library. Completely at random she picked out the stories about Molly, the spunky American Girl from 1944 with wire-rimmed glasses and braids. Molly is 9 in the stories, as I think all the American Girls are in their own stories. And I’ve observed a vast array of American Girl products aimed at the 8- to 11-year-old demographic. But Zoe is precocious at almost five, and she absolutely loved the stories. She listened to all six discs at every opportunity. I even listened to as much of the stories as I could. They were interesting! And well-written! I wanted to know why Emily from London came to live with Molly, and what Molly’s dad, an army doctor serving in Europe during the war, was writing in letters home. And how Molly and her friends were making Halloween costumes out of scrap materials because things were rationed. I’ve always enjoyed history most when it comes coated in fiction.
Then we got the Molly movie from the library, which she watched with Randy. He cried, and actually thought it was well done too.
All of us were a little smitten with Molly.
Coincidentally, or perhaps karmically or cosmically or whatever you want to believe, my mom had picked out Molly as a doll for Zoe long ago. She planned to wait until Zoe was a little older to give her the doll, but then Zoe started developing this deep desire. And what are grandparents for, if not to grant your wishes?
In addition to the Molly doll, my mom had procured some furniture for Molly and a set of the six books about her as well as a tiny version of the Molly doll. Perhaps the regular Molly doll’s own American Girl doll. She sent me to the American Girl store in Tyson’s Corner to find some additional accessories, including Molly’s dog Bennett.
I was in awe at the store. You may know I am a complete sucker for good marketing, and the American Girl people seriously know what they are doing. It’s a two-level store that includes a bistro for girls and their dolls to dine, a hair salon where grown women give your doll a new hairdo, and oh so much merchandise. Many, many dolls. Many, many outfits. And all kinds of accessories, from doll-sized grand pianos to a DVD that shows you how to style your doll’s hair (since you can’t take her to the doll hair salon every day, of course). It was masterful.
And of course, it was expensive. I will not argue with that.
But I saw all these girls who looked to be 8 or 9, holding their dolls, shopping with their moms. And it seemed so wholesome! The girls were not trying to be teenagers or be sexy or be adults before their time. They were really intent on accessorizing their dolls. And most of the dolls are historical. There’s Kit from the Great Depression; Addy, an African-American girl during the Civil War; Josefina from 1824 New Mexico, Kaya, a member of the Nez Perce tribe in 1764; and others. They all have many books about them that actually talk about history, and don’t shy away from hard truth. Certainly they’re still nice stories for girls (and I acknowledge I haven’t read any besides Molly’s) but they’re legitimate literature. They are not like any Dora books or My Little Pony books or Disney princess books in which someone has written down a story based on a show or movie in the most basic language you can imagine.
So I know people think it’s a racket and you can get a cheaper doll at Target (of course you can, but it’s not the same), but if Zoe’s going to be into something, I think American Girls are a lovely choice. I certainly prefer them to Barbie. They’re wholesome. They teach history. They have books (did I mention the books?). And no batteries required.
Tomorrow is Zoe’s birthday, so tonight when we were at their house, my parents made Zoe’s dearest wish come true. We are all very excited to welcome Molly (and mini-Molly) and Bennett into our home. They’re tucked into their bed, right next to Zoe’s bed, and are all sleeping peacefully.