I remember the day I got my first American Girl doll. I couldn't stop running her shiny hair through my fingers, changing her into different outfits, and bringing her up and down to see her small eyes open and close. I played with my dolls for years. My best friend and I spent hours sprawled on the floor, pretending, imagining, and laughing. One day, I just didn't want to play with them anymore. And that was okay. My mom and I boxed them up and stuck them in my closet.
It was sad, but not too sad.
Some day down the road my own little girls would play with my dolls. They would hold the small hands I once held, buckle the little overalls I buckled, and squeeze the little frames I squeezed.
Fast forward 8 years.
Today, I started running American Girl doll camp. It lasts for one week, and girls who share the love for the very dolls I was attached to throughout my childhood get to make crafts and laugh with other girls who also love their dolls. And I get to run it. Today, I forgot it was a privilege. Today, I forgot that I get to run this camp. Today, I forgot that in the midst of kids who play video games, eat, watch TV, and sleep, there are still young girls who let their imaginations run wild all while holding on to little dolls who keep their deepest secrets.
A little girl walks in with long, scraggly blonde hair, and thick-rimmed, purple glasses. Her mom looks panicked:
"She doesn't have an American Girl doll. She just likes them. I didn't realize everyone in the camp would have one."
Rewind to the evening before.
After years of sitting in a cardboard box, I pulled out my dolls. I chose to bring Kit with me to camp. She was the last doll I got, and I remember being excited when she came out because she kind of looked like me.
(This was before the fancy Just-Like-Me dolls that American Girl now has, so Kit was kind of special.)
"That's okay. She can borrow Kit."
I could tell the little girl felt kind of embarrassed. She wanted nothing more than to have a doll that was hers; she didn't want the one that the silly counselor let her borrow. After some coaxing, however, she grabbed Kit, and sat down next to another little girl.
She hugged that doll, squeezed her, made her the most intricate Birthday party hat ever, took her to lunch, sat her down on the splintered wood next to her, ran her fingers through her shiny hair, and loved her just like I used to.
During our bird feeder craft, most of the girls ended up covered in peanut butter. The craft was not perfect. I would never do it again. I felt like it was a complete failure, and most girls just asked if they could throw the feeder away.
(Think bagel covered in peanut butter, covered in bird seed, dangling on some yarn. Not pretty.)
But after the scraggly-haired-purple-glasses little girl handed me Kit at the end of the day, I noticed some peanut butter on my doll's shirt sleeve, and some more on the bridge of her nose. And the peanut butter on her nose came right off, but the peanut butter on her shirt sleeve didn't.
And I was happy.
And I get to run an American Girl doll camp.
And Kit gets peanut butter on her shirt sleeve.
So, it was a pretty good day.