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This weekend was Big Girl’s birthday. To celebrate, we went into New York City and visited American Girl Place. We had dinner in the cafe, and shopped afterward for Big Girl’s very first real American Girl doll — number 35, a red-head with straight hair and green eyes.

While we were there we made a pit stop to the doll hospital. Sally-O, our well-loved, much played with Bitty Baby was in dire need of servicing. As I mentioned in a February post (complete with a photo), Bitty Baby’s right eye often stayed closed. Her hair was a wreck. Her right cheek had a pen stain. She looked like a doll that had been hugged a lot.

The woman behind the counter was very nice. She did a checkup. Everything was fixable, she told us. She checked her price list and gave me the damage for the damage. It would cost x price for a new eye and a quick cleanup, which would do nothing for the ink stain or the cut hair. (Although the hair would be brushed and made pretty again.) For an extra $5 they would give Sally-O a brand new head. It would be like getting a new doll.

I went back and forth about it until I decided that yes, I’d go for it. I’d change out the head. Little Girl helped me take off all Sally-O’s clothing and put her into a hospital gown. Then we handed her over to the “doctor” who told us Sally-O would come home in about two to four weeks via U.S. Postal Service complete with a new head, a hospital gown, and a cap. Little Girl was understandably upset when we told her the doll would be staying behind. At first she told us no, but we finally convinced her, although she did ask to give her sister’s doll another hug. (We had to pry it out of her arms after the hug…) She stopped crying when the nice woman at the counter assured us that she would take good care of the doll.

The bargain hunter inside of me loved what we did. A brand new doll for half the price of a new one? Plus, we were recycling? How awesome is that? Except…the mom in me was dying inside. Sally-O has been such an integral part of our life. Big Girl has taken her everywhere since she we got her almost four years ago. Sally-O has been to playdates and parties and to Disney World. She’s been to Woodloch Pines at New Year’s. She’s been on long car trips, and to both of her “great” grandmas’ homes. She’s sat with us at dinner, and slept with Big Girl at night. She’s been a part of the family. And now she’s gone forever. As much as it’s true that the Sally-O that’s coming back to us in the mail will look the same, she will be a new doll. All the reminders — yes, even the cut hair and the stain left by the drive-by magic marker attack — will be gone. I wonder if I did the right thing.

I have a Free Moving Barbie doll. She looks a lot like Sally-O did. Her hair is trashed — knotted and gross, to be honest. She’s got some marker on her feet. One of her arms is a little loose. And yet I am so happy I have her, a reminder of the marathon Barbie sessions I had with my sister. We’d set up my brother’s train table as our Barbie world. A shoebox was a TV stand. We had a plastic pool, the Barbie van, an outdoor camping set. We spent hours and hours in that basement, and looking at that Barbie brings it all back for me. Have I, by freshening up Sally-O, taken away a piece of Big Girl’s childhood? Will she regret the loss of her constant companion? Was I simply too cheap to buy the little one her own Bitty Baby Doll? I’m not 100 percent sure, but I think I’m going to make a phone call this morning. Who needs a new head when a new eye that opens and closes might suffice?

What was your favorite childhood toy? Do you still have it? Would love to hear about it.

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