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Girl of the Year 2015 Grace Thomas

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posted by alias A Thousand Splendid Dolls on Friday 17th of June 2016 12:03:50 PM

Approximate Release Date: 2015 Condition Purchased: boxed Head Mold: "Josefina" Personal Fun Fact: There was a piece of me that always knew that Grace Thomas was destined to be a member of my doll family. I don't know why, and I don't know how, but both my sister and I had this sensation every time we saw Grace, that she was missing from our collection. It's ironic really that we both felt that way, considering the huge, immature fuss we made when Grace first debuted on the American Girl website. Isabelle Palmer, the previous Girl of the Year, had changed my life, and had quickly become my second favorite American Girl doll (these days she is tied with Josefina as numero uno). Colleen and I were sad to see Isabelle retire, and to be replaced by this "flashy Parisian baker" seemed extra insulting. Yes, my first impression of Grace was that she was a "lame, gimmicky doll" with a "cheesy, predictable, Parisian" theme whose story sounded most unappealing. As a twenty three year old at the time, I should have behaved more maturely, but what can I say, I was truly devastated that Isabelle was being discontinued, and offended that the world only seemed to care about the new Girl of the Year Grace. My sister says that she secretly liked the way Grace looked the moment we first saw her spread on the American Girl website. I on the other hand thought she was over rated--she reminded me of the somewhat "homely" Girl of the Year Lindsey. Isn't that ironic, considering Lindsey's resemblance to Grace was later the reason I bought Lindsey? After about a month or so of needlessly being repulsed by Grace, I grew to tolerate her "corny, Monster High Scaris ripoff" presence. In time, she stopped bothering me, as I accepted Isabelle's retirement. Plus it helped that American Girl was still selling Izzy's stuff in their sale section. I wasn't honestly curious about Grace back then, but out of sheer boredom, I'd oftentimes watch videos reviewing her, or I'd look at pictures of her online. This wasn't just limited to Grace either, I pretty much watched anything American Girl related when I felt too lazy to be productive. I spent a decent amount of time watching one particular girl's videos who owned a Grace doll. In time, I felt like I knew her Grace doll, and I actually looked forward to seeing her make appearances in videos. One day I actually sat down and watched a formal review on Grace. As the girl raptured about Grace's stunning two toned, brown hair, her icy light blue eyes, her unique feathered eyebrows, and her glossy, dark pink lips, it suddenly hit me. Grace Thomas was a true work of art. Since American Girl dolls don't have much face paint, and don't wear makeup, it's hard for there to be much differentiation between each doll. But Grace's subtle details made her a ravishingly unique beauty. In that moment, I saw Grace in an entirely new light. While I still found her Parisian collection to be exhaustingly predictable and not my taste (I absolutely love in nowadays), the doll herself won me over, and I couldn't help but drool all over her. The writing was on the wall after that so to speak. The second time Colleen and I ever took dolls to the American Girl Store nearest to us, we stopped in the middle of the mall and admired the Grace display (which was set up randomly in the middle of the building, far away from the AG Store). There, holding our newly acquired 80s Molly and Samantha dolls from eBay, the four of us said hello to Grace and gazed at her unique features. It felt so cozy and right being around Grace, and we even took time to look at her collection when we were at the store. Around that same time, whenever Colleen and I would muse about which AG dolls we would like to have one day, I would always announce that I would never hesitate to buy Grace if I found her secondhand. In each fantasy I had of rescuing an American Girl doll from the flea market, it was always Grace that was my target. Of all the American Girl dolls we didn't have, including historical dollies, it was Grace that I thought of. That fall, of 2015, American Girl ran many sales on Grace. The doll herself was marked down at one point, and she was even included in the later 20% off store wide sale. Colleen expected me to buy Grace during this time, as she knew just how much I loved her. But since I had wanted a brand new Addy doll for years, since before I replaced my childhood Addy's head, I jumped on the chance to get a Beforever Addy doll on sale. I never actually thought formally about buying Grace at the time...I didn't want to fall into the Girl of the Year "trap" and feel forced to buy all her clothes before they retired. Instead, I wanted to focus my attention on longtime goals, like a brand new Addy, Elizabeth Cole, and my sister's dream of Emily Bennett. Our Christmas that year was all about American Girls, and all the holes we felt in our collection had been filled, or so it seemed. As we entered 2016, I was sad to see Grace go, but I didn't feel that sense of lost opportunity. Somehow, deep within my soul, I knew that we were fated to be together someday. When I was making a cookbook for my sister and myself, I couldn't resist cutting out pictures of Grace to use for the covers (I chose an American Girl theme). After all, she did have the most perfect spread for a cookbook, considering she was a baker. Surprisingly, Colleen didn't interpret this inclusion of Grace on the cookbook as a hint for the doll, and it wasn't meant to be at all. It didn't feel like I was forcing Grace on myself, but rather that in some strange way, she was already part of the collection, and just as I would with any doll, she was included in my latest art project. That January, I started getting an itch so to speak. It was the same "itch" I felt leading up to buying my Isabelle doll in November of 2014. I was craving an American Girl doll, but not because I longed for the "new doll feel." Being that I can fix up American Girl dolls as an adult, I no longer chase the "new doll high" that I once obsessed over as a kid. But something was pestering me, and I was intent on feeling it out. At first I thought I wanted a "white body" Kirsten. That made sense in the moment, since Colleen and I were considering getting Kirsten's silver eyes replaced, and since one of my "New Year's resolutions" had been to get more clothes for her. But none of the dolls I found felt right--I always found an excuse to turn down a good deal. There was always something "wrong" or "suspicious" about every listing. In fact, I think I made up silver eye on a number of occasions subconsciously, because deep down I knew a "white body" Kirsten was not what I was looking for. Then my attention turned to my favorite expensive default, Caroline Abbott. That summer, I had pondered getting Caroline when I heard she was retiring, but an 80s Samantha doll sounded so much more enticing. Again, I stalked Caroline dolls, watch listing a few every day or so. My sister in particular felt that Caroline was not the right doll...she always found ways of persuading me not to get her (not that I needed much prodding). Then one night, out of frustration by how expensive Caroline's newly retired wardrobe was, I thought to myself, "I bet the limited edition Girl of the Year Grace's stuff is cheaper and more obtainable to get." In that moment, I suddenly hoped that I was right, because the idea of Grace Thomas had just bubbled into my doll rabid mind. I cruised eBay for several minutes, concluded that Grace was super easy to buy, and then proudly walked into my bedroom where Colleen was drooling over my dolls, and announced that Grace Thomas was far more appealing and obtainable than Caroline. Colleen bounced off the bed, and rushed to the computer. Together we plotted an evil plan to buy Grace, and that same night we watch listed a viable option who was ending the next day. Less than twenty four hours later, I was perched on my computer chair, watching the last five seconds of Grace's auction. There was less than a dollar window left on what I wanted to pay (I was hoping to score her for retail price brand new in the box). As I clicked the "Place Bid" button as the clock went down to the last second, I thought for sure I had lost. But a second later, I realized that eBay was asking me to make the payment. I couldn't believe it. I was stunned, sitting there by myself, completely speechless about the fact that I had just won a Grace doll. I walked into the kitchen, in a zombie like manner, and approached Colleen who was by the stove making dinner. I announced in a tone of disbelief, "I have a Grace doll." The moment was surreal, but there was not a doubt in my mind or Colleen's that I had made the right decision. Maybe to some, my decision to get Grace seemed impulsive. But in my experience, when I really want something, there is barely any hesitation if any, especially at this point in my life, when I am fully doll obsessed. Had I really wanted a "white body" Kirsten, or a Caroline doll, I would not have taken so much time, nor would I have been so picky for no real reason. But all it took to get Grace was the mere suggestion that I made to myself that night, and within twenty four hours, I was committed to it. She arrived the following week, and I opened her minutes before leaving to pick my sister up from work. She was every bit as beautiful as I imagined. After introducing her to all my American Girl dolls, and seeing her side by side with my sister's first Molly doll from 1996, I knew that Grace was home. She was the missing piece to my collection that had so obviously flown under my radar since the day I fell in love with her. I flipped through her book and decided to read a few pages, since I only had five minutes before I left. As I turned to the second page, I was perplexed by the author's description of a town with stretches of old stone walls and factories from the Industrial Revolution. It felt familiar, like the very place I had grown up in, and all the surrounding towns I had known my entire life. A few sentences later, I realized that Grace Thomas was a Massachusetts girl like myself, from an imaginary town that was set by a river I actually had seen before. I was blown away, floored, and completely shocked. This "cheesy, Parisian" girl and I were from the same area, and I had never known. When I told Colleen this as I picked her up from work, she too felt that eerie sensation that it was not just coincidence that Grace spoke to the both of us, and that we were both on the same page about buying her. The first two weeks I spent with Grace reminded me so much of my childhood. The day after she came home, there was a huge snowstorm. My sister's work was cancelled, and we spent the day inside our cozy house with Grace. Every few hours, I'd go outside and shovel the snow from the walkway and off my old Jeep (who died the next month). We'd watch as one of our neighbors plowed our driveway, and we drank hot tea together. The power went out later that day, which gave me the perfect opportunity to finish Grace's book. I snuggled up with her on our sofa by the wood stove and devoured her entire story. I have never read a more well written American Girl book in my entire life. Grace was so real, and unexpectedly so. The author not only described Paris, but also Grace's hometown history. She focused more on Grace's personal struggles, than she did on the gimmicky Parisian setting. In fact, I was sad to see Grace leave Paris, because Mary Casanova had created such an authentic, relatable story. I was left wanting more, and was frustrated I didn't have her other books. Grace was so much like myself--an organized perfectionist, with a sensitive personality, and a desire to create. Reading about Grace felt like learning about an actual person. I didn't feel the same carefully plotted, commercialized craftsmanship behind her books as I do whenever I read other American Girl stories. My sister enjoyed her book as much as me, and gave it exuberant reviews when she gobbled it up after me. The next few weeks, Grace camped out with us every night, as we watched my sister's CSI dvds and ate dinner. She went with me wherever I was in the house--she even oversaw our doll photography as we worked to retake some old photos. Grace has taught me so much about myself and has given me a new found appreciation for the American Girl brand. I was so quick to write off Girl of the Year dolls and newly introduced historical characters, because I felt that "American Girl was no longer about the stories." But something I realized after reading Grace's outstanding book was that the American Girl brand has simply evolved. By breaking the traditional six book format, the authors are no longer confined to a strict plot. The characters can break free and grow in new ways as a result. There is so much more depth and personality in American Girl books now, as much as I always loved the books I grew up with. With each new character, the American Girl authors capture the true spirit of real girls even better. Dolls like Grace are truly brought to life, and when given the chance, I realized that there was so much more to her than just a "cliche Parisian baker." I also can better appreciate the advances that American Girl has made in terms of their craftsmanship of the dolls themselves. Grace's face paint and wig are truly breathtaking, and it seems that every year, the Girl of the Year dolls have more of their own specialized features. But most of all, Grace finally set me free. In recent years, I've become progressively more laid back about buying dolls. I no longer feel like my collection needs to be calculated and analyzed, or that it has to fit some aesthetic purpose. But Grace truly broke the last remaining walls that were standing in my way. She made me see that it is okay to love something for no reason at all. Like everything else that has become an intrinsic part of who I am, whether it is music, dolls, or personal perspectives, she was something that I did not care for initially. But eventually, my maturity allowed me to let go of my petty grudge and I was able to see her with a fresh perspective. When I did this, I fell in love with the Girl of the Year 2015. When I first bought her from eBay, I had no idea how much in common we had, and how amazing her stories would be. I simply purchased her because I liked her, and I didn't feel like I needed a profound justification to buy her. In the end, her appeal did reveal itself to be a much deeper connection. But had I turned her away simply because she was "yet another gimmicky, over priced Girl of the Year" or because I "didn't need any more American Girl dolls" I would have never gotten to know her and experience her to the fullest potential. Grace Thomas for me really embodies my belief that doll collecting is just like life--it's about the journey, not the destination. Sometimes unexpected opportunities present themselves to us, and if we seize and embrace them, we not only are surprised, but we also experience so much more personal growth.

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