Sabbatical: Guys and Dolls

A journey of 10,000 miles begins in the hands

A journey of 10,000 miles begins in the hands

    I consider taking one's granddaughters on a road trip to American Girl Store something akin to guerilla grandparenting. As a grandpa, you are most decidedly in an alien land of pink. Armed with only a credit card, you are surrounded by the enemy's many check out counters primed and ready for battle. Steeling yourself, you tell yourself you can get out of this with your bank account remaining in good standing, even as the dead dolls eyes of WellieWishers stare back at you with what you swear is a sneer of pure mockery.

Seriously, a wash and set and earrings,  American Girl Doll Salon, Chicago

Seriously, a wash and set and earrings, American Girl Doll Salon, Chicago

   You realize all is lost the moment you step through the revolving door, and your granddaughters' eyes are already as big as saucers. Their squeals as they bolt off in all directions at once calls to mind a greased pig contest. The other dads and grandpas mill aimlessly about, their vacant gazes affirming the battle can't be won.

   We're here specifically for a hair appointment for Willa. You read that right: a wash and set for a...a...I can't even write the word. There is murder in my heart as the clerk cheerfully asks if Willa will be getting her ears pierced, to which Harper squeals a "Yes, please!" The clerk's eyes never meet mine, as I am clearly not a party to the transaction, save for my signature on the receipt.

   Carol has wisely imposed a one item limit, which the girls are dutifully honoring, after she patiently explains to four-year-old Juno that "one" does not mean "two" held with one hand. I find I can't even save on the souvenir shopping bags, as each granddaughter requires her own.

A luncheon date at  American Girl Cafe, Chicago

A luncheon date at American Girl Cafe, Chicago

   The insidious location of the store is revealed on the way to the cafe (what hair, earrings and clothes shopping spree is complete without lunch in the city?), when a Lego store suddenly appears on our right like a second front. Juno is off to the races, but Carol reels her back before my fears of just released American Girl Lego playsets can be verified.

   At lunch, I'm actually thrilled to learn the girls' desserts are included with their meals. You claim your victories where you can in a sophisticated war zone like this, where even Emerson and Willa get their own place settings.

Shop till they drop

Shop till they drop

   I'm surprised to learn that our day is done when lunch is complete. The pull of a full afternoon of dress up shifts the girls' attention homeward. The final tally turned out not to be as bad as I had been led to believe, though I'm well aware I'm now a reliable new revenue stream for the luxury doll market. I should have signed up for the Rewards Program. (There's actually a tier for those spending $500 and up.)

   But is was all worthwhile, of course, especially when I asked for Juno's hand before exiting the store and crossing the street. It was the first time in her young life she's volunteered it to me. I could feel all those dead dolls' eyes gleaming with approval behind me. Now they know they have me.