We go into the American Girl Store at the mall. I am looking after her, as we are in the middle of a medium-sized family crisis, and others need to be at the hospital. I have never been in this store. My parents did not love me enough to buy me an outrageously expensive doll that I would no doubt destroy, as I destroy most things, with affection and intensity.
The American Girl store is indeed a wonderland. Just because the doll is smaller than humans, all the stuff for the doll is incredible, and when it actually works, no one says, “Of course.” They say, “Wow!” As if small things could never work.
When a gaggle of aliens that size arrives on Earth, they will no doubt be disappointed. The microwave really opens, but it does not microwave. There are tiny plants you can pull up, yes, but the plants are not actually edible, as the “Vegetable Garden” sign says. (Well, they could be edible for aliens, what do I know?)
My niece and I marvel at the doll-sized bowling alley, which automatically keeps score and returns your ball. We ogle the Mars capsule, where a doll has test tubes, a clipboard with a blueprint and a list of steps for an experiment, one of those glove-reach-in safety things you can use to handle plutonium, and silver bags labeled “mac and cheese” and “green beans.” It’s the coolest toy I’ve ever seen. But then, would I want to play “alone on Mars” with my doll? There’s only room for one.
Around the corner, there is a room where you and your doll can get your ears pierced. A little girl is in the chair and the mother is trying to soothe. “It only hurts for a second.” Does it? I had my ears pierced 33 years ago. I don’t remember.
“I didn’t cry. She cried,” my niece says, referring to her sister again.
I understand that older sisters best not have emotions.
The room is pink. The gun fires. The little girl cries. But it’s over.
Image: Marble grave stele of a little girl, Greek, ca. 450-440 BCE, Metropolitan Museum of Art.