On Saturday, I took my daughter and her friend up to Barnes & Noble in Woodinville, which was hosting a mini American Girl Fashion Show, complete with games, prizes, raffles, and a nice, educational book. If you aren’t familiar with the American Girl concept, they aren’t just dolls, they are pure marketing genius – 18 inch dolls that come in two major lines:
• “Just Like You” dolls, which come in every possible permutation, so that a girl can have a doll that looks like her, right down to matching outfits, which are available in both kid and doll sizes.
• “Historical” dolls, which each have a series of books you can read to learn about girls at different historical eras, along with historically accurate clothing, furniture, and other overpriced (excuse me, high-quality) accessories.
Thus, they manage to appeal to both fashion mom and education mom, and although I was personally outraged when they introduced a historical doll from the 1970’s (I am not a museum piece, although I hope to be eventually), I don’t have too many other complaints about the dolls.
The B&N event was a fundraiser for Seattle Children’s Hospital, so I figured, we’d go, support a good cause, and while the girls enjoyed the fashion show with their dolls, I could read a book, except that I forgot to bring one. Okay, plan B: I can peruse the shelves and possibly add a new title to my ever-increasing reading challenge pile.
No, I haven’t finished the birdwatching book yet … thanks for bringing it up.
As soon as we arrive, I realize this is not a small event: The entire children’s department has been rearranged to accommodate a wriggling mass of girls, dolls, moms, and did I mention everyone brought their little brothers?
Emma and Julia race to the front and sit on the floor in a large gaggle of girls. I can no longer see them due to the size of the crowd, which means I can’t keep an eye on them any other way except to hang around the one entry from the children’s department. No worries – there are plenty of tables of books right near the entry, and I am excited to find an autographed copy of World War Z, which I was planning to read. Autographed Zombies! Yeah!
I wander back into the children’s department and immediately realize there is no place left to sit: if you weren’t there early enough to grab a seat for the show (we weren’t) then you were stuck milling about with the mob of moms. I try to stand and read but this elicits many comments from those nearby, notably: “Oh, I wish I’d thought of that.” I consider pointing out that there is a huge bookstore attached to the children’s department, but I really just want to read.
So I seek out an alternate spot. I move further away from the podium and discover there’s a Thomas train table over in the toddler section. With three completely empty chairs! No one else has noticed them yet! I claim one eagerly. I read two paragraphs.
Two little brothers discover the train table, and begin moving trains around the track. An audience of younger brothers quickly gathers to watch. The two train brothers start complaining that they can’t maneuver the trains with all the audience brothers in their way. The audience brothers think it would be more fun if the train brothers shared their trains. A collision ensues. All the little brothers attempt to grab what train cars they can. Several mothers rush over, shushing and apologizing and glancing nervously over their shoulders at the mob of mothers of well-behaved children behind them.
I get up and look for another spot, and finally discover a very low empty table, hidden behind a stroller parked right at the children’s department entry. I move the stroller slightly and hide behind it, hoping to read another paragraph or two. Something about Zombies in post-apocalypse China. Must … Focus …
A little brother wanders by with a book that is blaring like a fire engine. A moment later, I hear a Mom state firmly, “NO. Pick a quieter book.”
Zombies in China. Doing … Something.
The announcer on the small podium is starting the contests! “Everyone who dressed like her doll may participate! If you and your doll are both wearing pajamas, come on up!” A mass of jammie-and-pink-Converse-wearing girls surges forward.
Zombies! Patient Zero … Attacking ... Something.
“All our winners receive an Ariel the Mermaid game box, containing Go Fish, Tic Tac Toe, and Disney Dominoes!”
Disney's Mermaid Zombies, now there’s a book I'd like to read.
The fashion show is over, and there are excited girls and frustrated little brothers buzzing all around me. Emma and Julia come find me. I hand over their promised shopping money, and find myself holding two dolls while they buzz excitedly around the American Girl tables. Moments later, Emma re-appears.
“Is it okay if I buy a third Coconut?”
Coconut is the American Girl dog. She already has two of them, along with three cats, two horses, two doghouses and a complete American Girl stable set.
The hook has been baited, and, in my zombified state, I bite: “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
As with a zombie movie, you can already predict how that ended.
At the checkout, the two girls pay, as I wait patiently behind them, my arms full of dolls, a poster, and a zombie book, gazing wistfully at the empty, overstuffed reading chairs near the cookbook section. It is my turn to pay, and they are already walking toward the exit. I pile everything on the counter so that I can fish my credit card out of my purse. The cashier looks at me sympathetically and says, “I’ll put the zombies in your purse for you.”