Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Childhood Dream Come True

A couple months ago the American Girl company added a new historical doll to its ranks— Rebecca Rubin, a Russian-Jewess living in the Lower East Side with Bubbie and the rest of her immigrant family.

American Girl also sells six books describing a year in Rebecca’s life (1914) and, of course, offers various Rebecca accessories such as a miniature toy challah and menorah. I bet the company even offers a miniature Bubbie, which probably wouldn’t be much smaller than my own Bubbie, who is, in fact, rapidly shrinking. Alas, it seems I was introduced to WWI-era Rebecca ten years too late.
As a child I yearned for an American Girl doll that resembled me— dark hair, dark eyes, buck teeth. The closest thing I could find was Samantha Parkington, a doll that was anything but a Cleveland suburbanite Jew born in 1985 and destined to become an attorney extraordinaire (fingers crossed). Rather, Samantha, as described in her six-book series, was a Victorian-era blueblood living in upstate New York with her wealthy grandmother. She ate peppermint ice cream and rode around in carriages. She and I weren’t birds of a feather.

Still, I begged my parents for a Samantha doll, and on my 9th birthday I received Samantha, her book set, and a change of clothes for her. The change of clothes was inspired by her “Winter Story” and consisted of a green and blue plaid cape and matching furry white beret and muff.

Tell me the last time you’ve seen a little Jewish girl, in real life or in photographs, wearing a white muff. The idea of it cuts against my Jewish sensibilities: 1. A muff is white, so it’ll show stains easily; 2. It’s specifically designed for your hands, which are conveyors of dirt and oil, so it is guaranteed to get dirty (see previous point); 3. It’s expensive; 4. It’s probably the least useful hand-warming device on the planet because you can’t move your hands to grasp anything while they are in the muff; 5. An innocent animal, which is not kosher/edible, needs to be killed for its creation…what’s the point of killing an animal if you can’t even eat it?

Anyway, I would never have worn a white muff, so why should my childhood self have identified with a Samantha doll that did? That doll was more likely to have a debutante ball than I ever was. I only wish that Rebecca Rubin had been around then. We could’ve made matzo balls together at Passover and dressed up as twins for Purim. I might have even kept her around through my adolescence and adulthood just so I could pass her down to my own theoretical children.

I can’t say the same thing about Samantha. The only thing I ever did with her was play tea party, and my mom gave her, along with my Barbie doll collection, to the Purple Heart Veterans a few years ago. Maybe if Mattel had made an Ice Capades Batsheva doll one of them would’ve stood a chance of sticking around, too.

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