Four years ago, Olivia and her two best friends all asked for American Girl dolls for Christmas. Olivia wanted the Julie Albright doll. But since she costs over $100.00, we made a pact with the other girls’ parents that none of us would buy American Girl dolls that year.
I’ll probably never have enough money to be excited about spending a hundred dollars on a doll. But this came at a particularly tough time. My career seemed to have stalled and we were upside down on a house, throwing good money after bad in a futile effort to rehab it up to a break-even value.
What I didn’t know then is that Julie Albright is not just an 18-inch doll. She’s a well-developed character: an adventurous young daughter of divorced parents in the 1970’s who loves basketball, cares about endangered animals, and has a pet rabbit named Nutmeg. She has over a dozen books, each giving a glimpse into life in the mid-1970’s and offering life lessons on family, school, and growing up.
Other American Girl characters with equally developed story lines come from all periods and facets of American history. Plus, American Girl has a magazine, activity guides, and a whole catalogue of nonfiction books to help girls navigate everything from changing schools and having crushes to managing money. In other words, American Girl is really a brand based around “Celebrating girls and all that they can be.”
Unlike me, Olivia knew the difference between Julie Albright and the knock-off 18-inch doll that we bought at a grocery store instead. But Olivia is the most graceful creature to ever walk the earth, and she tried her best to protect our feelings. On Christmas morning, after a pregnant pause, she turned to us, smiled, and cheerfully said, “I’m so glad I got an American-Girl-like doll!”
We knew this year that we could afford just one short family trip. And as we realized that our little Olivia is growing up fast and probably won’t much longer dream of going to the American Girl store, it seemed like this should be the year.
So we planned a family trip to Seattle, which has the closest American Girl store. Olivia saved all the money she made all year long. And in my frequent work trips to Seattle, I scouted out other potential activities to do on the trip.
Finally the day came and, this last Thursday, we packed our bags, kenneled our dog, and headed to the airport. We had the greatest time. We toured the Boeing factory, ate seafood on the pier, bought over-priced fruit at the Pike Place Market, visited Wendy’s childhood home, bought overpriced chocolate at some candy store from Wendy’s childhood memories, visited a curiosity shop, rode a huge Ferris wheel, explored the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and closed out the trip at sunset on top of the Space Needle.
But by far the most enjoyable time was at the American Girl store. We had a simple, delicious meal at their bistro. And Olivia glowed with excitement as she carefully chose how to best spend her hard-saved money.
But every once in a while, I think it’s a beautiful thing to be able to show your daughter that a dream can come true if you’re willing to work hard enough and wait long enough. Especially if you remain kind and gracious along the way.
Later on, while discussing the trip with the kids, Wendy said, “Your Dad and
I can’t make all your dreams come true. But the ones that we can, we want to.”