One of the things I’ve been looking forward to most as a parent is the doll phase. When I was a kid waaaaay back in the 80s, the Pleasant Company was just getting started with the most exquisite dolls I’d ever seen. The catalog was maybe ten pages long at that time and I think there were only four dolls, all representing historical time periods, and I HAD to have one. Now that my daughter was entering her doll phase, I wondered if my daughter would love them as much as I did.
I don’t remember if I got Kirsten for a birthday or Christmas, but I loved her from the moment I got her and treated her with a reverence no toy had yet received in our home. I played with her, but carefully. I never undid her hair from the two braids that hung on each side of her face, looped carefully and tied with ribbons. I was extremely lucky to have her and I knew it. My parents were generous and I slowly amassed most of her collection before I started to tire of dolls completely. By then I knew I would save her for my own daughter and tucked her, her clothes and her accessories, safely away in her blue trunk, ready for another little girl to love her as I did.
As Miss O grew, I watched her play with her toys, watching how she cared for them and counting the days until she started to show interest in dolls. It didn’t take her long to become fascinated with baby dolls, but pre-school isn’t the best time to hand down a beloved plaything and not expect it to either be abandoned in a store or covered in the sharpie you had no idea she could reach. I wasn’t about to send Kirsten out like that, so in the trunk she stayed.
When Miss O turned five, she started really showing interest in “big girl dolls.” At our annual family cook out that summer, her cousins played dolls with her and she fell in love with Barbie and American Girl-type dolls instantly. She left their house begging for both all the way home. Since then, she’s received Barbies as gifts and the love is there, but not nearly as deep as her love for the bigger dolls.
The time came for the annual cook out again and all Miss O could think about was seeing the girls and playing with the dolls. I knew she was getting close to ready for Kirsten, but the reality of parenting was holding me back. First, Miss O’s room isn’t as big as my childhood room was and, as I’ve learned many parents do, I constantly struggled with toy storage and room to play. I remember being able to have elaborate set ups for my toys and still having space to get dressed in the morning or walk from one end to the other without touching anything but floor. We don’t live in that house and while I’ve come to terms with that, it still makes it hard to figure out. Even redoing Miss O’s room didn’t seem to help and yes, we’ve tried the “less toys” method. That’s a whole different post.
It was around this time I started getting conflicted about Kirsten’s fate. I had been chatting with Hubs in a fit of nostalgia, sharing my experience and enumerating what exactly awaited Miss O in Kirsten’s trunk. We talked about how the company had grown in 30 years and the empire it had now become under the name American Girl. We knew the dolls were expensive, but we also knew they had a reputation for quality and the line had grown extensively. We were also very aware of the other, similar dolls being produced for Target and Wal-Mart that cost about a quarter of what the real deal was currently going for.
I turned to the most obvious source I could think of that would help me sort things out, Pinterest, and I was not disappointed. Blogs advising how to get started, opinions on doll quality and several ways to care for them, including removing all kinds of markings from them. I found the discussion of starter dolls, the less expensive versions from Target and Wal-Mart to be most valuable. In theory, you get a $25 doll at Target and see how your child handles them. Then you either stick with that doll or they can graduate to the $100+ version from American Girl.
Then I stumbled across a few articles and posts about the original Pleasant Company dolls and the game changed. Apparently, my Kirsten and her things, still in almost mint condition, were potentially worth upwards of $3,000. I couldn’t believe it. She had long been retired from the collection, but it never occurred to me she’d be that valuable. Now I wasn’t so sure I’d be passing her on to Miss O. I wouldn’t hand a 6-year-old a bag of cash that big, so how could I give her my doll? I was now conflicted over passing down something I loved and saved for my daughter and knowing that $3,000 is no joke to a two-income family with a mortgage, two dying cars and summer camp to pay for. We weren’t desperate for the money, but that‘s no insignificant amount to just throw away.
At the cookout, Miss O and the girl’s spent 95% of the time playing with what I learned were Our Generation dolls from Target. Miss O seemed to not care at all that they weren’t American Girl dolls and lovingly brushed their hair and fed them little slices of pizza and changed their clothes for the better part of the day. I decided to give the starter doll method a go and Hubs and I decided that we’d get her an Our Generation doll for Christmas that year. The girls, however, had a different plan. About an hour before we left, they very graciously asked if Miss O would like to have one of the dolls she was playing with, along with several clothes and shoes the girls had culled from their collection. As Miss O lost her mind with excitement, my cousin stealthily pulled me aside and asked if I wanted Miss O to have the doll sized airstream camper and horse as well. In the moment, I knew Miss O would love them and I couldn’t figure out how to hide them for the trip home and save them for Christmas, so I said thank you so much, yes please and the collection instantly grew. Miss O was even more beside herself and as we added them to the back of my CR-V, a doll sized Vespa scooter was added. The whole way home I wondered how in the heck these would fit in Miss O’s room, but I was blown away by my family’s generosity and by Miss O’s excitement.
Valentine, as the doll was named, has become an integral part of Miss O’s playtime, so much so that Miss O started using money she earns from small jobs around the house and birthday money to buy accessories for her at Target. Miss O pours over every American Girl catalog that arrives and arts and crafts time becomes an opportunity to make some doll-sized version of whatever Miss O feels the doll is lacking at that time, like a tiny paper laptop or placemats. Most recently, Miss O bought her a sister, so now there are two Our Generation dolls in our family.
For Christmas that year, we may have encouraged the obsession a bit too much, but I blame Target and their fantastic 50% off sale before Thanksgiving. I also think I love that Miss O is finally in the doll stage and we can share that. I’m still conflicted over Kirsten’s fate, but at least I know Miss O has two dolls she loves and plenty to play with. She’s a lucky girl and doesn’t seem to be bothered at all that her dolls aren’t American Girl dolls. She calls them that anyway and could care less that they came from Target.
We also had a great opportunity to visit the American Girl store on our trip to New York City that year to see the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall. I managed to control myself and not add a doll to that trip and we decided to wait until Miss O’s birthday the following summer. That gave me plenty of time to make up my mind about my doll and see if the interest was even still there.
We also have a store in Boston, so I knew I could at least bring Miss O in for a visit. Maybe we could even visit the Bistro for dessert or even lunch. I could feel the desire to go all in growing inside me, but I wasn’t entirely sure how far I wanted to take it or how far Miss O wanted to go. One thing I was sure of, the dolls allowed me something I could easily enjoy sharing with Miss O and that made it a possibility worth considering.