An American Girl doll. Who cost $120.
Her parents said NO.
Don’t get me wrong. I like American Girl stuff. It’s well-made. It’s wholesome. It’s got great strong-girl characters.
It’s also freaking expensive.
The dolls are pricey. The accessories are ridiculous. A pair of shoes is $24. I never pay more than $15 for the Maiden’s shoes. I rarely pay more than $24 for my shoes. There is no way any doll feet are worth $24. Sorry.
But the Maiden was in love. Specifically, with Molly: a spunky WWII-era girl, with glasses and braids. A girl whose Daddy, like the Maiden’s, had to go away to war. A girl who went to school and played with her friends and who took tap dance lessons. Just like the Maiden.
So we made a deal. I would take her to the American Girl store to buy a Molly doll.
If she could save up enough money for it herself.
I figured I was pretty clever. There was no way a 4 1/2-year-old would ever have the patience and stick-to-it-ness to save up for months and months and months, right? The Molly dream would fade eventually, hopefully to be replaced by something much, much cheaper.
I was wrong.
Because the Maiden began to save.
She saved her allowance. She saved birthday and holiday money. She did extra jobs around the house, things that weren’t standard chores: stuff like washing the windows and cleaning the bathroom floor, and other tasks that I was only too happy to pay someone else to do. With our help, she went through her playroom and pulled toys she no longer played with or was interested in. She sold her entire Mr. Potato Head collection and a ton of her action figures and various other toys.
Her Lowes Build-and-Grow bank grew.
For months. Almost a year.
I was shocked.
It wasn’t all one-tracked, determined kid. There was plenty of parental prompting, like “Remember that people who do not complete their responsibility chart do not get their allowance, which means it will take longer to earn a Molly.” Or “Are you sure you want to waste your money on that cheap plastic toy instead of saving?” Or, on a few instances of which I am not personally proud, “Sweetie, I really don’t want to make my bed, want to earn some money?”
At last the day came. She’d socked away enough cash to pay for the doll plus basic accessories plus tax. And she counted it out, to the last penny, onto the counter of the American Girl store.
I am her mother. I have seen plenty of laughter. I have seen plenty of tears. But on that day both smiles and tears lit up her face with a joy so deep that no single emotion could convey it. For once my lively and chattering daughter had nothing to say.
The Maiden has a giant toy box full of stuffed animals and dolls. But it’s only Molly that she rushes home from school to greet. It’s only Molly that, weeks later, is still more playmate than doll. It’s only Molly that has never, ever been tossed around, left on the floor, undressed and left naked, dropped, or eaten on.
Several days a week she tells me how incredibly happy she is that she decided to save up for her new friend.
And so, for her sake, am I.