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Here’s the Thing About the Dolls

I was probably about Addie’s age when I first saw an American Girl catalog. It was at my neighbor’s house and I can still remember how envious I felt knowing I would never have one of those dolls.

Price was the first factor, I don’t remember how much they were in 1989, but I know they were expensive enough that it wasn’t even worth asking for one

The second factor was that they were dolls. I didn’t play with dolls. I only ever had one Barbie and I don’t remember ever owning a baby doll in my life.

But their detailed outfits and silky hair held an allure all their own. They were dolls with their own stories, their own accessories and a status all their own. In 1989 you couldn’t just walk into a toy store and pick one up. You could only get them through the mail. Even now you can’t just pick one up, there are only four main stores (two in New York, one in Chicago and one in L.A.) with a handful of smaller boutique stores nationwide.

Last week an American Girl catalog showed up in the mail, I handed it off to Addie to look through thinking she’d find it interesting then move on. What I didn’t expect was the start of a full blown obsession, an obsession I’m not quite sure how to handle.

I’ve taken Addie to the flagship American Girl store in Chicago three times, each time I told her she could get something if she wanted, she’s turned me down every time. I walked out feeling as though I had dodged a bullet as she moved on to the Lego store or the huge Disney Store down the street. My grandma gave her a Madame Alexander doll from the Avon catalog for Christmas two or three years ago and Addie still believes it’s an American Girl doll. While she’s started to catch on that her doll’s hair and teeth are not the same as the real American Girl dolls, she’s still none the wiser, and I’m thankful.

When I was in New York this past weekend I made the trek to the American Girl store on 5th avenue to bring Addie back an outfit for Josephina (that’s what she named her doll.) An outfit for an 18″ doll cost me as much as an outfit with accessories for a seven year old human child. Regardless, Addie was thrilled and her obsession with American Girl dolls is satiated for the time being. I wrote about Addie being obsessed with injuries and differences awhile back and at least a dozen comments mentioned that the wheelchair, cast, crutches and headgear meant for American Girl dolls are among the most played with toy in many households.

Guess what Addie wants more than anything? A doll wheelchair, doll crutches and a doll cast (for a grand total of $82 before taxes.)

Currently Josephina is hobbling around on crutches made from chopsticks and being wheeled around in a doll stroller turned wheelchair, but Christmas is coming up and I can’t deny that Addie would love the real (doll) things.

Here’s what I’m hoping, I’m hoping she never asks to do the full blown American Girl experience. The one with the tea, the lunch, the photo shoot and the doll spa day at one of the flagship stores. Because if she does I’m going to have to break it to her that her doll is a fraud and not welcome in the American Girl salon. Can you imagine? I just can’t justify spending ONE HUNDRED AND FIVE DOLLARS on a doll when the doll she got for Christmas three years ago fits in the clothes, the accessories and Addie is none the wiser. Sure, her hair is decidedly less fantastic than a real American Girl doll, but $105.

I have a feeling the reason American Girl dolls have taken off is because women my age remember having them as girls, remember how special they were and want to share the same memories with their own daughters. I’ll admit, there’s a part of me that wants to give Addie what I never had when I was her age. But after hearing that one day at an American Girl store can leave parents up to $600 lighter in their wallet? I’m thinking we can come up with much cheaper memories, like having tea with Josephina in Indianapolis. (Bonus? Josephina fits in Build-A-Bear clothes too!)

Are you an American Girl Doll family? Am I missing something huge?

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Find more of Casey’s writing on her blog moosh in indy. She’s also available on twitter, facebook, flickr and Instagram. If you can’t find her any of those places? Check the couch, she’s probably taking a nap.

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