I met my youngest daughter and son-in-law for lunch in one of my favorite restaurants, which happens to be in the mall where the American Girl doll store is located. It was obvious where I had just come from since I was toting an American Girl bag. “I have to admit I thought you were one card short,” my son-in-law said. He was talking about the time he realized I had an American Girl doll collection, only four dolls at the time.
I knew my family thought I was a little crazy since I had acquired that first Molly doll in 2010. I would leave my dolls out in the family room where I could see them. I loved to just look at them. Family members would make no comment, avoid the topic altogether or pretend the dolls weren’t there. When my middle daughter gave me Emily for Christmas, I could sense that everyone else thought it was a little weird that that’s what I wanted for Christmas. Only my granddaughters showed enthusiasm and admired them whenever they came for a visit. Eventually, I moved my American Girl dolls to the room where the rest of my doll collection is housed to avoid the judgment.
I couldn’t help but wonder, myself, if there was something wrong with me. Why did I, an adult of no less than 56 years want these dolls? Why did I enjoy changing their clothes and just looking at them so much? Just being in the room with them gave me a sense of joy. As my collection grew, I worried about what people would think if they knew just how many American Girl dolls I actually had.
Thankfully, the Universe saw fit to reassure me. My experiences on eBay had given me a glimpse of other adult collectors. My visits to American Girl’s Facebook page made it clear to me that indeed there were many other women, some as old or older than me who were collectors. One day I decided to peruse the product reviews for each of the historical girls on the American Girl site. More than a few of the listings read “purchased for self”. Now, I knew I was not alone.
But, it is the angel in white who touched my heart the most. I met her in the American Girl doll store on the very same day that my son-in-law confessed his dubiousness as to my sanity. I had walked through the store, as usual, perusing everything. First, the historical girls on the top floor. Then, a trip down the escalator to visit Bitty Baby and the My’s. It occurred to me that I kept seeing the same woman throughout the store. Coincidentally or not, she happened to be shopping in the same parts of the store as me, at the same time. She was carrying a new doll and was clearly picking out clothes for this doll. She was the grandmotherly type, short with gray hair, almost white and she was dressed all in white.
I just had to speak to her. “Are you getting that doll for your granddaughter?” I ventured. I feared she wasn’t a grandmother and would be insulted. “Oh no,” she said with enthusiasm. “This doll is for me.” She told me that she did, in fact, have a granddaughter and she wanted the doll so she could play with her granddaughter, but the doll she was buying that day was for herself. “That’s wonderful,” I replied. “It’s nice to know I’m not the only one.” Then, I told her how I had acquired Molly so I could play with my own granddaughter. The conversation concluded with a discussion of how amazing American Girl dolls are.
I felt elated as I walked from the store to the restaurant. How could it be a coincidence that this woman was in the store at the exact same time as me and that I would keep running into her? As I mused on this incident, I couldn’t help but come to the conclusion that this woman was an angel sent to me to let me know that I should never be ashamed or embarrassed about my American Girl doll collection. She, after all, clearly was neither ashamed nor embarrassed and actually seemed proud of her American Girl acquisition.
For as long as I can remember, I have let what other people think of me impact my behavior. I have never succumbed to peer pressure in the usual sense i.e. experimenting with drugs, etc. But, fear of what other people think of me has kept me from saying what I believe, speaking up for myself and boldly pursuing the things I love without reservation. If I could go back in time, knowing then what I know now, I would never let the 13-year-old me pack by dolls away. And I am glad the 56-year-old me met that woman in the American Girl Doll store that day. Now, I even have the courage to write a blog about my passion.
My advice to everyone is to embrace your passion, whatever it is, enthusiastically and with your whole being, regardless of what anyone else thinks. Never let society’s conventions or the narrow opinions of others keep you from being who you were meant to be. The 13-year-old me was willing to put dolls aside, but the current me knows that loving dolls, and especially American Girl dolls is an integral part of who I am. I will not back away from something that brings so much joy to my life. If others think I’m not all there, even family members, that is their issue, not mine.
Here’s to many more years of collecting and loving American Girl dolls.