Here at the Jackpot, we’re used to getting this close to something, only to have it ripped away just as our fingers are about to touch it. When Miss O fell in love with American Girl dolls, I wanted her to have the whole American Girl store experience, complete with Bistro visit, doll salon trip and everything. We’ve had a run of good luck lately, mostly due to intense planning and severe financial discipline, so I felt confident I could lavish something ridiculous on my daughter for her birthday. Fortunately, we live a short drive from the only American Girl store in Massachusetts. Unfortunately, shortly after we decided Miss O would get a new doll for her seventh birthday, we found out that store would close in three short weeks, a full five months shy of Miss O’s birthday.
The sting of missed opportunities hit me as I thought back on our quick weekend in New York City this past Christmas to see the Rockettes show. We made a surprise trip to the extremely convenient American Girl store across the street from Radio City Music Hall. Miss O left that store in love with a Truly Me doll that looks like her and I left resolved that she wasn’t getting my mint condition Kirsten doll and would, in fact, get that Truly Me doll instead.
I even managed to get through the lure of the New Year’s Day new doll release on our visit to check out the local store here in Massachusetts. That was a little harder to resist, but I was so glad to get a sense of what Miss O was drawn to as well as confirming she actually did want the same doll. I felt like I knew what to expect and could formulate the plan for how her birthday experience was going to go down. Now the store was closing and I was so disappointed.
I knew I could order the doll online and stash it away for her birthday. She’d love it just the same and I’d probably save a ton. But I saw how much she wanted to bring her doll to the Bistro and how long she lingered at the salon watching them do the dolls’ hair when we visited. We could find another weekend and drive down to the store in New York, which as far as we knew was remaining open, but our summer was already packed and it didn’t seem likely we’d make it there around her birthday. I suddenly wished we hadn’t taken her to either store.
That’s when I realized how much I wanted to do this with her. I had already worked out the costs and had stashed some money in my savings for it. I talked it over with Hubs, we looked at our calendar and agreed to go all in on the whole experience in two weeks’ time. I grabbed the appointments as soon as I could and got a perfect time, right after her dance class in time for lunch. We’d surprise her again, because we love surprising her, and let the fun of watching her lose her mind over getting to do it wash over us.
It was SO. HARD. waiting for the day to finally arrive. Fortunately for me, everything went brilliantly. We picked up Miss O from dance class, managed to get her to change without telling her exactly why we were in such a hurry other than lunch and errands. To her credit, she made no argument and her only struggle was that we wouldn’t tell her where we were eating, so she made a game of listing all the places it might be.
Even as we pulled up to the Natick mall parking lot, she hadn’t figured it out yet. We drove by the storefront for the American Girl store and as she ooooed and aaahhhed. She never asked if we could go in or guessed it might be what we were up to. We parked about one store over, making us walk toward the Cheesecake Factory, which is just one store to the right of the American Girl store. Hubs and I were trying not to laugh as we watched Miss O slowly resign herself to eating at the Cheesecake Factory with each step closer. I even went so far as to walk her a few steps past the door to American Girl and then say “Ooops, turn here, please” and maneuver around another Mum and child on the sidewalk to get to the doors.
As soon as Miss O looked up, she said, in a very confused voice, “Wait, what?! We can’t eat here.” Then, “Oh wait, yes we CAN!” Hubs and I walked her to the first display case and pulled her toward it out of the flow of traffic into the store, which was thankfully lighter than I expected. I knelt down and tried not to cry as I looked into her expectant eyes and told her that Daddy and I were so impressed at how well she was taking care of her toys and cleaning up after herself, we decided she was ready for this doll and because the store was closing she was about to get a very early birthday present, including lunch and the salon visit.
I assure you that moment was worth every penny. Miss O didn’t know what to do with herself. She started hopping up and down with anticipation and little tears filled her eyes as she threw her arms around me breathing “thankyouthankyouthankyouIloveyouMommy” over and over. Over Miss O’s shoulder, I saw Hubs’ face, a mixture of happiness and relief, and caught a glimpse of a store staff member looking our way with a huge grin and wiping a tear from her cheek. Oh yes, this was totally worth it and we hadn’t gotten more than three feet into the store!
We took a spin around the store, just to make sure Miss O still wanted the Truly Me doll and to spend the generous amount of time I left between dance class and our lunch reservation. Taking the doll to the Bistro was part of the experience, so we had to buy a doll first and I had no idea how busy the store would be, especially with the closing. The Truly Me dolls were mostly on the second floor along with the Bistro and the Salon and it was MUCH busier up there. We chose the doll first and I let out the breath I was holding, fearful it wouldn’t be in stock by the time we arrived. We allowed Miss O to pick one new accessory and one new outfit as well. She settled on a Hamster with its own cage and working wheel and a set of darling Sushi pajamas. That’s when I couldn’t help myself. They had matching jammies for the girls! We found the one pair in her size and headed downstairs to the less busy registers.
We took a quick peek at the book section, to see if there was an arts & crafts kit Miss O might like to have. She’s creative and we like to encourage it, especially with a month worth of potential snowy days working from home looming ahead. Miss O wasn’t terribly impressed with their offerings and opted not to get anything. I was impressed with her self-control. It can be hard to be offered something more and not finding something. It’s harder not to fill that opportunity with something you don’t really want just to fill the opportunity rather than lose it. We checked out with plenty of time to sit on a bench by the up escalators and unbox the doll.
It’s been a long time since I held an American Girl doll, and having most recently held an Our Generation doll, I can tell you the difference in quality is apparent right away. The weight is different. The feel of the arms and legs is softer. The hair is definitely higher quality and so incredibly shiny. There’s still nothing wrong or bad about Miss O’s Our Generation dolls, one hand me down and one new, but there’s a definite difference.
After a few pictures and a brief naming ceremony of our own invention, Miss O carried Clara, our newest family member, up the escalator to the Bistro to check in for our lunch appointment. We were invited to pick a doll chair for Clara, and waited about five minutes until we were seated. As we set up Clara in her chair, I noticed another difference in the dolls. Clara sits with her legs sticking straight out, rather than the V-shape the Our Generation dolls make when they sit. It was a minor difference, but it made it much easier for Miss O to get Clara in her chair.
Lunch was absolutely delightful. Enough so that I really am sad the store was closing. I could easily see Miss O and I having girl time there or celebrating little achievements there. The food was better than I expected and they had no trouble handling my need to be gluten-free. Each meal comes with a starter, a main dish, and a drink, with dessert being extra. I ordered the warm spinach artichoke dip, as did hubs, but mine came with baby carrots and celery rather than the pita chips he got. It was so incredibly good. Miss O started her meal with the Fancy Fruit Fondue, fruit kabobs with strawberry yogurt dip and mini banana muffins, which was darling and came out with a little artificial daisy flower she could keep. The service was excellent and our server was all in on participating in our very early birthday celebration.
For lunch, Miss O ordered the Buttery Butterfly Pasta because she adores bowtie pasta and parmesan cheese. Hubs ordered the Herb-Roasted Salmon Served with roasted tri-color potatoes, roasted broccolini, and lemon-Dijon sauce because he’s way fancier than I’ll ever be. I went in prepared to get a Cobb Salad, but once I discovered they had gluten-free bread, I went straight for the Grilled Chicken Sandwich with Caramelized Onions and a small green salad on the side and was not disappointed. My mouth still dreams about that sandwich.
In the spirit of birthday celebrations, Hubs and Miss O decided to get dessert. Hubs enjoyed the Carmel Apple Cheesecake while Miss O delighted in decorating her own cupcakes, including a mini one for Clara. I opted out of dessert only because we were starting to push our time for the salon and I was already late for the 15-minute prior check-in time.
As I made my way over to the salon line I overheard that they were running behind and hoped that meant we wouldn’t be turned away if it took Miss O forever to finish with her cupcakes. I was two people away when I realized she needed to be with me to make choices and turned back to encourage her to leave the cupcakes and bring Clara to wait in line with me. Fortunately for me, Miss O was so full from lunch, she had already opted to bring the cupcakes home and finish them later.
The salon was very gracious in keeping our appointment and Miss O made the quickest decision on a hair style I’ve ever seen her make. The doll earrings were a bit harder of a choice, but she managed that just in time. As a last-minute treat, we truly went all in and got the doll a mani/pedi, because why the heck not?! In for a penny, in for a pound at that point. The way Miss O was beaming, I think not hearing me say “no” was the best part of her day. The staff at the salon were very kind and truly looked like they were having the best time. Our stylist is a pre-school teacher by day and she must be amazing because she handled that doll like a true professional, all the while chatting with Miss O, me and her colleagues as though this were a real salon and Clara was a regular.
It’s a real shame that store is closing. A few days ago, I looked online to see if I could book another lunch to squeeze in one more afternoon of fun with just Miss O and me, but of course they’re booked solid. It doesn’t mean I won’t keep checking for a cancellation, but it makes me sad to think of the fun we could have had. At least we got to do one big celebration and I got to watch Miss O carry her brand-new doll around the store, grinning like a Cheshire cat and feeling so special. She deserves that feeling and I’m so grateful I could give it to her. It was truly a special memory we won’t soon forget and if we ever got to New York again while she’s still in love with American Girl dolls, you can be sure I’ll look to book a trip to the American Girl store, as long as it stays open.