Today I have a real-live, honest-to-goodness 15 year old daughter, one who can legally sit behind the wheel of a car and press the accelerator. I really can’t say “where has the time gone?” I know where it’s gone: the time has gone to nursery school and days at the beaches, little brothers, soccer games, and Disney World. It’s passed through New Kids on the Block and the Jonas Brothers and to All Time Low. Time has passed with baby dolls and Barbie and American Girls.
I was looking into quinceañera traditions today. It’s a Latin girl’s fifteenth birthday: kind of like a sweet sixteen, but much cooler, as I understand it. I came across the tradition of the Last Doll. If I understand this correctly, the birthday girl receives a porcelain doll at her party; at the end of the night, the doll is passed down to a younger sister or younger family member, symbolically giving away the last toy of her childhood.
Our Last Doll ritual happened last month, even though I didn’t know it at the time. I realized, however, as I was packing up her last American Girl doll for her younger cousin, that something monumental was happening.
“She can have her; she’s in the back of my closet,” my daughter said casually. Her cousin had been asking for one for Christmas and, since those things aren’t cheap, a used one is a great find. She took her out of the closet. Her blonde hair was a little ragged and, somehow, her hand had been stained with pen ink. She still had all of the doll’s play clothes and party dresses carefully stored on tiny hangers.
The night before we took Julie – that’s the doll’s name – to Atlanta to her cousin, I put the doll and her clothes in a tote bag for the trip, remembering her when she first appeared under the Christmas tree a few years ago, packaged carefully in her red box. And now, here I was, jamming her into a bag. I had a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. I knew that this was my daughter’s Last Doll, the last doll she would ever play with. I’m sure that there will be others, collectibles, souvenirs – but this would be the last one who would ever go on pretend adventures in her fabulous matching outfits, and would lie in bed at night with my little girl.
But there you go. It’s the circle: little girls grow up and hand down their dolls to another little girl who will grow up… and on and on.
I learned today that there’s another beautiful quince tradition: the birthday girl receives a ring, sometimes from her mother, which symbolizes exactly that: life travels from beginning to end and back around to the beginning again.
So I am heading off to the jewelry store to buy my beautiful quinceañera a ring.
(Author's note: if I screwed up any of my information about the quinceanera, please let me know)