Thursday, November 15, 2012

Best Doll Stroller Ever

Amelia loves her babies:

And, for the longest time, she has wanted this:

That's the Joovy Doll Caboose Tandem Stroller, the Rolls Royce of doll strollers. It's a miniaturized real stroller with plenty of storage space, room for two dolls, and an ample canopy to shield dolls from the sun. (According to Amelia, dolls need to be shielded from the sun. Otherwise, they'll burn. Duh). It's slightly bigger than an average doll stroller, which is nice, since Amelia is slightly taller than the average kid. She has to stoop to push her babies in her old doll stroller.

I have hesitated from buying this because, at $80, it's almost the cost of a real stroller. Even when Amelia was a baby, we didn't spring for the expensive strollers. We had a Graco travel system from Target and an auxiliary umbrella stroller from Wal-Mart. By the time Amelia turned four, they were both completely worn out from overuse. The Graco had travelled with us cross-country more times than I could count. It rolled like a demented shopping cart toward the end and, in its last few months, it refused to fold. I had to throw it into the back of the SUV fully extended and hope for the best with my rear visibility.

There's nothing wrong with buying a top-of-the-line stroller system. There were times when I wished we had done it. But it wasn't where our parenting dollars went, and something in me balked at spending $80 on a doll stroller. After all, Amelia's almost seven. I don't know how much longer she'll maintain the illusion that her dolls are real people who need real care. That phase lasted a long time with me, but she cycles in and out of fads quickly. Yesterday it was princesses. Today, it's ninjas. The days of the dolls might be numbered.

Then, we went to the Rose Bowl Flea Market last Sunday.

This is an official photo from the Flea Market website.
Yes, it's really that crowded.
I love the Rose Bowl Flea Market. It has three shopping areas. The first area forms the "outer circle" of the swap meet, and it's filled with new stuff - boutique clothes and pet supplies, mass-produced artwork, and gourmet beef jerky. Walking away from that area, you'll find antiques - grandfather clocks, high-end cowboy boots, Eames chairs, and vintage advertising. Both of these areas are nice for browsing, but they're nothing compared to the final, inner circle of the swap meet - an area known as the "white zone."

Pete calls this area the "used socks zone," and it's where you'll find anything and everything. It's like browsing through 100 garage sales at once, and there's always something interesting. Once, we saw a vendor hawking disposable underwear like he was an X-rated carnival barker. This week, we saw a jar of human teeth accompanied by a hand-lettered sign reading "I'll Buy And/Or Sell Any Teeth." ( Please forgive me, but I was too creeped out to ask to take a picture). There are ventriloquist dummies that look like they'll steal your soul, patches ripped off of old mechanic's uniforms, and piles and piles of chewed-up Happy Meal toys. And, this week, there was this:

Baby Not Included
That's a genuine Jeep stroller. It's big enough for a four-year-old, which means that it's big enough for at least two dolls. It has more storage than the average mom would ever need, a three-point harness system, a canopy with a sunroof, two cupholders, and an mp3 jack with two speakers. Amelia spotted it while I was sorting through vintage Atari T-shirts, and immediately settled Jacob inside and started fussing over him. By the time I'd turned around, she was ready to plead her case.

"I need this," she said. "Jacob needs this."

I shook my head. "That's a real stroller," I told her. "Wouldn't you rather have a doll stroller?"

Amelia pulled the stroller closer to her chest. "Jacob's a real baby," she said. "He doesn't want a doll stroller."

So, I spoke to the saleslady and pleaded my own case, asking her how low she'd go on the stroller. She quoted me $15. Before I knew what I was doing, I pulled out my wallet.

So, now, after four years of being without a stroller, we have another travel system in our entry. Sometimes, Amelia will walk Jacob through the neighborhood while I sit on our front porch, watching her. Sometimes, we'll go on walks together, and she'll push Jacob to Target or Kohl's, magnanimously offering to hold my purchases in the storage compartment. And, sometimes, she'll just plug my mp3 player into the stroller, and dance with her dolls in the living room.

I hope the baby doll phase lasts long enough to take plenty of pictures of my daughter playing with her babies in the Jeep stroller. I hope we'll go on lots of walks together before Jacob is relegated to a high shelf in her bedroom. As far as bargains go, this is possibly the best $15 I ever spent. Sometimes, it pays to look at everything at the flea market. And, sometimes, it pays to be open to the possibility that the best toys aren't really toys at all.

And, if you see a little girl pushing a huge Jeep stroller around the neighborhood, please stop and tell her how adorable her baby is. All moms love that.

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