Back in November, I made my first visit to the American Girl Store in Chesterfield with our granddaughter Phoebe. Her birthday present from Spark and me was a Bitty Baby, which she got to pick out herself. They all have a defining number, and by the time we left we could reel the digits off like accountants.

It is easy to like the American Girl Store in any other month than December, when you want to avoid it like a glass of rotten eggnog.

I had no choice but to return to the store during that ominous shopping month. Ten days before Christmas, Mom needed a gift idea for our granddaughters, and I suggested she give each of them a Bitty Baby or American Girl outfit. The two youngest, Phoebe and Parker, have Bitty Babies, and Avery, who’s 7, has a girl doll—chosen to look like her, which is kind of “Twilight Zone” creepy.

The night before going to Chesterfield, I strategized. I’d get to the store the minute it opened. At 9:48 a.m. I pulled into the lot. There were three people already there, peeking in the windows. I didn’t want to appear overzealous and hunkered down behind my dark glasses, watching the clock. Ten minutes later I was inside, facing a wall of folks who entered through the mall doors.

It was enough to send even the most placid Patty into a panic. I persevered and exited with a Bitty Baby snowsuit, footed pajamas with stand-up cat ears, and cowgirl duds for Avery’s doll, complete with bitty boots for her bitty feet, the left of which has a bitty corn.

Buying the Western outfit was a bitty-bad mistake. As some of you may recall each Christmas I kill myself putting together photo albums for each of our daughters. This involves dating, arranging and writing descriptions for about 600 pictures. The project should be started in October, not days before Christmas.

This December, I was hurrying to get the job done when I came across a summer photo of Avery in a horse shirt and cowboy boots, holding her American doll dressed in the same getup I’d just bought for Mom to give to her.

I was going to wait until after the holidays to take the Dale Evans look-alike back, and order something online, but the shipping to get it to Washington by Christmas cost more than a mock-turtle tunic. My only choice was to return the cowgirl duds to Chesterfield and subject myself to yet another stampede, which is appropriate verbiage given the theme of the outfit.

Of course I wasn’t surprised that the pickings were slim. Even Slim Pickens’ would have been disappointed, as were the dolls, of this I’m certain. Goodness knows the wardrobes of many will be lacking panache extending into 2013. There were more “Temporarily Out of Stock” postings inside the doll’s glass cases than “For Sale” signage in Florida during the recession.

It’s quite obvious in American Girl land there’s no lagging economy — all the dolls are secure in their positions and perpetually happy. Which I wasn’t when I had to walk back through the revolving door with 50,000 other shoppers determined to nab the last pink tutu, fur-trimmed skirt or dog-walking culottes.

They were out of all three, so we put an American Girl dog under the tree and hoped Pepper wouldn’t lift his leg. Avery is sure to love him.

A very Merry Christmas to you and yours — full of blessings, joy, memories to treasure and wardrobes stocked with American Girl clothes.