Like most girls, I grew out of my American Girl Doll phase at around age 10, and after that, my sweet little Rebecca Rubin had little purpose. However, one summer night a few years ago, I decided I would play with her once more. I began to rummage through her clothes basket and found all the outfits that I was once so obsessed with. I dressed her up in all of these outfits that night. Every single one. I tried a bunch of different hairstyles on her, and I read her some of the books that I “hand-made” for her back in the day. That night made me feel like a kid again, and now I have one of those nights at least once a year.
It’s a little tradition between Rebecca and I, and it’s usually something I do solely to feel like a kid again. Last night, however, honoring this tradition meant a little more than just jumping back into childhood for the night. Last night I realized how crucial she was to my growth all those years back.
Other than the fact that she is objectively WAY prettier than me (and pretty much everyone), Rebecca and I are really similar. Though we grew up a century apart from each other, we both were raised in Jewish families, originally from Russia. When I read the books about Rebecca, I always felt as though she was the only person who could relate to being a first-generation American in a family so rooted to their home country. A lot of my friends in real life had immigrant parents, but Rebecca was the only one who also had the same cultural background as me. I used to be insecure about my roots (I haaaaated being anything other than solely American), but Rebecca was so proud of these same roots, and since I admired her so greatly, I slowly started to feel that same sense of pride.
I based Rebecca’s personality not only on the characteristics that the American Girl Doll Company attributed to her, but also on my own goals and dreams. A lot of the storylines that I made up for Rebecca back in the day reflected the storylines that I hoped to experience for myself one day. For example, I loved to get Rebecca all dolled up for a big dance with the boy of her dreams. Though my prom dresses were more expensive than hers, and my prom nights themselves weren’t quite as romantic, I still always felt the same sense of magic that I felt through Rebecca back then.
I also loved to dress Rebecca up in casual school outfits and a backpack of school supplies that she would use to get the best education possible. In those scenarios, Rebecca was a diligent worker, a balanced competitor, and an active participant in class. She was always confident in her abilities, and though my confidence often wavered, I believe her and I ended up very similar academics wise.
Before I ever picked up a guitar myself, I made Rebecca play guitar. My parents bought her a miniature guitar and some music tabs from the American Girl Store, and I remember having so much fun with it that I started wanting to play guitar myself. I don’t know if it was simply a coincidence that I started taking guitar lessons five years later, but either way, we both acquired a common love for the instrument.
Rebecca had a much easier time growing up than I did. I’m really lucky with the life I’ve had thus far, but Rebecca was like…REALLY lucky. The girl had no extrinsic problems…except for when I literally cut off her “split ends,” believing that her hair would grow back even healthier. That was a bad day for her. Other than that though, she always got the guy she wanted, the grades she wanted, and the family life she wanted. Still, she had the humility of someone who has faced rejection, the work ethic of someone who can’t memorize topics instantly, and the strength of someone who doesn’t have a supportive family to rely on. She was maybe 5% of my size, but she had 500% more character than me or anyone I know. I had a lot of traditional inspirations whom I looked up to while growing up, but she was (and still is) one of the main ones.
I think it’ll be just a tad creepy if I bring her to college with me (and I don’t think my tiny dorm can fit anything else at this point), but I really hope she stays with me in one form or another. Playing with her the other night gave me a weird sense of guidance, and I’m so happy the American Girl Doll creators came up with a character concept that proved to be timeless. I hope I get to give one of these dolls to my kids one day, and that they find themselves and their heroes through these 18 inch cuties.