Thursday, July 15, 2010

Gretchen is an American Girl -- Chapter 6 in my life story

Have I mentioned I love to read?  My current appetite for books was nothing like it was when I was a child.  Probably due to reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's books, I adored reading about the pioneer days.  Here is a picture of my sister Anna and me putting on a play from On the Banks of Plum Creek for our grandmother.  I think you can tell who played Laura, and who played Nellie Olsen!  

At some point in 3rd or 4th grade I began to "write my novel", as I called it.  This story spared no dramatic element.  I wouldn't let anyone read it because I knew it was pretty shoddy, but that didn't stop my love for writing it.  One time Anna and I acted part of it out for my mom.  Not surprisingly, it featured sisters who were traveling west in a covered wagon, and encountered every conceivable mishap.

After a short business trip with my dad, my mom brought home some books that are incredibly well-known now, but brand-new and unheard of in 1986.  She gave me the book Meet Kirsten and my sister Anna Meet Samantha.  "There are dolls, too!" Mom told us, and we tore out the little card in the back of our books and sent it in to request a catalog.  These books and dolls were of course, the American Girl Collection.  At that time, there were only 3 girls: Kirsten, Samantha and Molly.  For Christmas Mom gave us the rest of the books -- at that time, only 3 books per girl -- including all the Molly books.  These books were hot off the press!  This was long before the American Girl doll empire owned by Mattel, these were owned by Pleasant Company in Wisconsin, and the dolls could only be seen in the catalog.  Oh, Anna and I would look at our catalogs for ages.  I remember how shiny Kirsten's golden braid loops looked on the page, and how perfect her Pioneer dress was.   The catalog eventually featured dresses for the girls, as well, and I just loved those perfectly gorgeous dresses (I never got one of those dresses, though, in case you think that is the end of the story).

I did, however, receive my very own Kirsten doll for my 9th birthday.  Back then, the dolls were made in West Germany, not China, but other than that, she looked pretty much exactly like the Kirsten dolls made 20 years later.  I remember thinking that getting my doll for my 9th birthday was just perfect because the girls in the stories were 9 years old, too!  In retrospect, I see how young I was at 9 (and glad to be so!), because many girls now buy their first American Girl doll at 5, 4 or even 3 years old!  But I can't imagine loving or longing for a doll quite like I did unless you'd read the books first!  Eventually we read all the American Girl books as they came out (with Felicity next, then Addy. . . ).  These books were rather below my reading level from the start, but it didn't matter to me because the stories were so good.  And as I grew older, I continued to enjoy them.

I also can't help but think of the modern push for 9 year old girls to be "tweens" -- and more interested in makeup, cell phones and boys than they are playing with dolls and pretending.  It makes me appreciate so much how my parents sheltered me from that push (which was not nearly as strong in that era).  I truly indulged my imagination found hours upon hours of play in my own world.  I am already thinking toward the future for my daughter, and introducing her to excellent books and toys (like American Girl -- I wholeheartedly love it still) that allow a girl to enjoy life and adventure in girlhood.

This is my 6th post for Mommy's Piggy Tales, where we're retelling stories of our childhood.


Janette@Janette's Sage said...

Precious. I totally agree about making them grow up so fast when I look back at my toys and the ages I received and wanted them.
Enjoyed...wonderful to read each person's life

Ginny Marie said...

I remember when American Girl Dolls came out because my cousin's name is Kirsten...We were too old for the dolls, though. We were in high school in 1986! I agree with you...I wish that playing with dolls and using your imagination didn't end as soon as it seems to now.

Wonderful memories!

Shua, Mia and Daniel said...

I have Kirsten too!! I made tons of clothes for her and loved playing with her!

MommaHarms said...

I also drooled over the AG dolls. we never did get one (I think we discovered them in 6th grade and maybe my mom thought i was too old, or we were too poor because we were poor). I agree about letting girls be girls! It starts with TV I think - I am going to be incredibly picky about what my girls watch when they outgrow preschool shows! What a fun childhood memory.

Mom2three said...

My daughter loved reading the American Girl books and has the Kirsten doll. While she sadly sits on a shelf now, I think Claire loved the adventure and the history that she had while reading the books. Great memories of a fun time!

Denise said...

Great pictures! I loved the Little House book series when I was that age!

Janna said...

I never had an American girl doll but I had a Real Baby that I loved like my very own. All my allowance when to clothing and caring for her:)

Yes! We sooo would have been doing plays together if you knew each other:) My friend Tarrah and I used to reenact scenes from Christy.

When I was older I made clothes for my cousins American girl doll.

Debi said...

Such a sweet story! I didn't read those 'Little House' books until I started home schooling MY own kids! Oh, what a I missed.
Your love for books is so precious. Did you ever finish that novel? Plan to in the future?

gianna said...

You got a doll? I SO wanted a doll! I read all the books from the library. MY favorite doll was Molly because I LOVED her glasses, but I LOVEd all of their stories. I'm sad that it's such an empire now, but I'm glad I can remember when. Those stories were superty duperty well written. And I'm with you in staying young for as long as possible! We only have a few years to be young and play.