January is that month we love to put behind us. It’s the bleak midwinter of the hangover of holiday bills, thank you notes, tax documents, the flu, and gray skies. We make resolutions to budget and diet.
Instead, my daughter and I opted for a reunion in New York City to celebrate her Capricorn birthday and beat the midwinter doldrums. We lucked out, missing their blizzard and our arctic blast – or the ‘polar vortex,’ as it was known in her state of Kentucky – by one week. My former Highland Belle – now a mother of two – loves theater and musicals, so we saw several shows, reveling in watching her Highland Park peer Stark Sands strutting his stuff in thigh-high red-sequined stilettos in the rave musical Kinky Boots. She humored me by looking at the phenomenal treasures in J.P. Morgan’s library, including rare manuscripts and letters, the Gutenberg Bible, and first editions. We dined in little New York restaurants, went to Rockefeller Center, and strolled down Fifth Avenue, where she steered me to … the American Girl store. The next big thing.
Having raised my own two sons and a daughter, I now enjoy four preschool granddaughters and the imminent arrival of that other flavor, a grandson. Thanks to Disney, all of my granddaughters adore ™the princess thing.∫ I have a 3-year-old who goes home after preschool and immediately ‘gowns up,’ the way adults slip out of street clothes into sweats or jeans. There are over a dozen of these dresses, not to mention the shoes, tiaras, scepters, etc. Let’s face it – girls are high maintenance. As a child, I did not dress up so much as play with my Barbies, clothed by my grandmother’s own creations. My daughter also played with her Barbies, although I searched high and low for the holy grail of the Cabbage Patch doll one year.
It seems that soon my mini-princesses with their princess dolls will be entering the next phase, the American Girl dolls aimed at young schoolgirls. Little girls choose a doll that resembles them in hair and coloring who comes with a story line, wardrobe, and matching outfit for the owner. The ensemble costs a fortune. Despite the Valentine regalia in the store, I did not make purchases, although her 4-year-old is a huge fan due to a friend’s older sister. I’m not ready to buy into this. Friends tell me I’ll succumb.
There will always be ‘the next thing’ for kids of all ages. Having crammed as much into a weekend in NYC as possible, the duo that interacts more on Skype than I would prefer headed to La Guardia and a restaurant with a TV to watch the Golden Globes. And there it was, the next big thing. At the terminal restaurant we sat at tables where each person had a personal computer tablet where you placed your order on one icon, then went to games, news, etc. Tablets were not limited to the restaurant; they were at the gate areas as well. Everyone was online. Nobody was discoursing. Those without tablets were staring at their phones.
Of course, my mini-princesses also love the tech industry. They beg for my phone or iPad so they can swipe and play. By age 2. I’m not opposed to technology as long as it does not supplant the human touch. I like the feel of books, just as J.P. Morgan did. I love to use Skype and FaceTime, but I would rather watch all my granddaughters play dolls in imitation and anticipation of becoming mommies in ‘real time.’ What unites us most, I hope, is holding a living doll, our new baby. New life. Always the next big thing.
Len Bourland has returned to Park Cities People, where she began writing in 1983. She has been recognized by the Texas Press Association for best feature writing for a weekly publication. She was a regular commentator on KERA.