notes + observations + star addresses
Happy Birthday, Gabby!
BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY, LITTLE GIRL
The following is an article I wrote for my niece when she turned 10 years old. Today she turns 21. Pass the tissues, please...
While most people dread a four a.m. wakeup call, for nine-almost-ten-year-old Gabriella Gajo (she’ll hit double digits in one week) last Saturday couldn’t have started early enough. With her doll Samantha tucked under one arm, the young Florida resident flew from Orlando to New York to live out the American Girl dream.
Accompanying Gabriella was her grandmother, Julieta Gajo, who told West Orlando News: “When Gabby was six I promised her that if she were a good girl I would take her to the American Girl Place to celebrate her 10th birthday.” Fast forward four years, and there they were in the Manhattan boutique and café sipping milk from tiny teacups and eating chocolate mousse from itty bitty bowls.
For those not in the know, the American Girl phenomenon is the best thing since the Cabbage Patch Kids, and possibly even Barbie. Initially, the concept began with the Samantha doll in 1980. Afterward a pre-teen novel set in turn-of-the-century New York debuted showcasing Samantha as the star. Eventually different characters from varying U.S. states and eras appeared, more dolls and books followed, and today the American Girl brand is a capitalist heaven—albeit one with sugar and spice and everything nice—ranging from clothes (for doll and doll-owner), furniture, accessories, body products, movies and video games. At present there are seven American Girl Places in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta, Boston and Minneapolis; and plans to open new locations in 2009.
Today the American Girl brand is a capitalist heaven—albeit one with sugar and spice and everything nice
But devotees don’t come to the American Girl Place just to shop; there are many other ways to spend the contents of their piggybanks. Here one can partake in a Disney-esque tea party. There is also a photo studio and a salon where dolls are caped and seated in little swivel chairs to have their hair done in braids, pigtails, or any one of the many designs offered in the catalog. They can even have their ears pierced.
“I saved $106,” Gabriella said, pulling out wads of small bills from her blue glittery purse. “I got Samantha’s hair done, and her ears pierced; I bought her a nightgown and accessories and school stuff. She has a new hat, coin purse, pencil case and eyeglasses like mine!”
A good eldest sibling, Gabriella also picked up a doll (Kit Kittredge from 1934 Cincinnati) with the savings from little sis’ Kiara who was at home in Orlando waiting impatiently for her own 10th birthday. Afterward, Grandma and granddaughter strolled through the hustle bustle of Times Square to see the Broadway version of The Lion King. “I saw a million people walking, talking, yelling and shopping,” said Gabriella in Wonderland. “It was different for me because people in Orlando don’t walk on the street. There were also lots of little carts where you could buy food; they made the air smell good.”
Afterward, Grandma and granddaughter strolled through the hustle bustle of Times Square to see the Broadway version of The Lion King
Inside the theatre, Gabriella attentively watched her favourite character, Nala, and mouthed along to all the songs, including Hakuna Matata, which means ‘no worries.’ During the second act, as if by design, the wiped-out Floridian drifted off to dreamland.
Part of the Gajo birthday tradition is to reflect upon the last year and pinpoint one’s best and worst moments. When asked her thoughts on this, Gabriella responded, “The worst was taking the FCAT (Florida Comprehension Assessment Test). And the best, after my baby brother Alex being born, was coming to the American Girl Place.” That happy note was music to grandma’s ears.
Mrs. Gajo summed it up, “It was certainly a big day, but it was absolutely worth it. These are priceless memories you carry with you for the rest of your life. I’m not sure who had more fun, Gabby or me!”
Originally printed in the West Orlando News on October 15, 2008 (Gabriella’s birthday).