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Barbie: The Next Generation

So yesterday I filled you in on my past life with Barbies – read that first if you haven’t already. Let’s just say that I played with Barbies as a kid, as did my mom who gave hers to me, and I had them all in a huge steamer trunk neatly labeled “Barbies” in my garage. The girls have seen the trunk and longed for the day I’d get it down for them.

Monday was that day.

Monday was our Pajama Day – a day we traditionally have for every Staycation, and this spring break is no exception. I thought for this Pajama Day I’d bring in the Barbie trunk and let them wallow in girl-ness for the day.

Now, on Pajama Day the girls aren’t allowed to go downstairs until both are awake and an adult goes with them: I set up a pallet of pillows and blankets on the floor the night before for movie-watching, get out games and fun stuff to do, and tape up a “chores list” for the day. No one’s allowed a sneak peak, since the chores list says things like “Eat cookie dough” or “finger paint” or “play outside in your pajamas”.

Or “play with Barbies”.

So coming downstairs on Pajama Day runs a close second to Christmas morning, and the girls were in a fever pitch when we came down Monday morning. When they saw the trunk in the library, all thoughts of breakfast flew out the window.

I’m not sure what they imagined would be in the Barbie trunk, but I could feel an aura of puzzlement and confusion as I unloaded it. Shoe box after shoe box came out, filled with “food” or “shoes and stockings” or “bedding”. Box after box came out of gorgeous clothes (hello, real-silk kimono set from the sixties!) but the girls weren’t appropriately squealing.

Finally Cora turned to me and said, “But Mommy, where are all the Barbies?”

Ah. About that.

I pulled out the small shoe box labeled “Barbies” and opened it up to reveal one-and-a-half Barbies: my one (1!) Barbie with bendable legs, and my mother’s original Barbie – who would be worth a lot of money if she had arms.

And if her head was attached to her body.

Yes, we had one Barbie and one bust with legs.

Cora and Maddie looked, bewildered, at all the stuff surrounding them and said, “But how did you play with this?”

My mom and I looked at each other – already my fingers were itching to sort Barbie’s belts by color, and shake out the folds on her Swan Lake tutu. My mother had already begun putting together the real cast-iron stove we’d picked up somewhere and cobbled on to Barbie’s make-shift house, and was busy organizing the coal bucket next to it.

And that’s when I realized – Barbies have changed.

Yes, they still sell extra clothes and furniture, but today it’s all about WHICH Barbie you have. There’s Fairytopia Barbie and Merliah Barbie and Disco Night Barbie and Veterinarian Barbie, and you NEED THEM ALL. The Barbie people have very cleverly started making Barbies who are no longer naked – they’ve got a pink leotard painted on, or a swim suit, or something, so you can’t share clothes. Or make one Barbie over into another.

I gently explained that I only had one Barbie and she did EVERYTHING, and suggested Cora go get her favorite Barbie to use with the things. Then my mom and I set about teaching the girls how to set up a house with less-than-perfect props.

I brought out the small boxes I’d been saving up and showed the girls how to turn them into pantry organization. We took a couple carpet remnants from the trunk and created attractive area rugs to set off different rooms. I started stacking plates and cups together – and Maddie’s eyes lit up and she snatched them from my hand.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

The girls quickly got to work and for the most part split things up amicably. In addition to my big Barbie trunk, I have a smaller trunk of Ginny things, including a couple pieces of furniture, and Cora took over Ginny World while Maddie set up Barbie. The girls agreed to share some things – the pantry, for one, and the outdoor patio furniture. And there’s a huge communal area where either girl can “shop” for what she needs.

All in all, the girls have shared well and are now enthusiastically into story-telling with their incredibly elaborate set-up.

As for me and my mom, we’re trying hard to restrain ourselves and not go crazy in there. But girls, if you come downstairs tomorrow and find that Barbie’s boots have all been sorted by height, well, cut your mom some slack.

Old habits die hard.


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