Cabbage Patch Dreams
My daughter owns a Cabbage Patch Kid, the result of an emotional impulse purchase on the last shopping day before Christmas. Tragically, Ashanti Marie was loved for all of forty-three minutes before being pushed aside for the flavor-of-the-month, a giant stuffed polar bear named Polar Bear. With that, my heart promptly broke in two.
This led me to realize – the significance of the sacred treasure that is the Cabbage Patch Kid is completely lost on children today. Kids of now have no appreciation for those past kids who went before them. Do they not know of the brave parents and grandparents who once fought (gulp – even died?) to ensure their pint-sized loved ones would not have to suffer without one?
The problem was, in 1983, the supply of dolls was falling far, far short of consumer demand. Every week a different rumor swept through the halls of Seedling Mile Elementary. “There are Cabbage Patch Kids at the Toys & Hobbies store!” Consequently parents would beeline over there to find not a one. Not even a baldie to be had. Then, “Cabbage Patch Kids are at Sears!” and “At the Hinky Dinky grocery store!” I once heard they were giving them away at a shoe store. Yes, free with the purchase of a pair of Hushpuppies.
I was certain on Christmas my parents had come through for me. After performing complicated mathematical equations, I determined one present under the tree fit the exact dimensions of a box containing a Cabbage Patch Kid. I even swore I heard a crinkle sound when I poked at one side, signifying the plastic window where my precious one’s eyes would meet with mine for the first time.
On Christmas morning, I saved that present for last. I wanted to finish the holiday off with a bang. I unwrapped the present slowly, each rip of the paper bringing me closer to the dreams I’d held onto for so many months. I imagined her kicking back in my room with Holly Hobby and the gang, flying copilot with me to library storytime, riding on the handlebars of my banana-seat bike (too bad I didn’t have a bicycle basket).
Instead (cue the record scratching) the last tear of paper left me staring at a flowered wicker bicycle basket. My memory fades from there. Too painful to remember. At worst, I might’ve buried myself in the communal wrapping paper heap and tantrummed myself into a coma. At best, I might’ve forcibly smiled and admitted that, yes, I’d always hoped someday I’d have the means to transport a fleet of orphaned kittens.
I grew to become quite bitter, especially upon hearing of others’ good fortune. One day a friend playing at my house was suddenly called home by her mom. Something about “great news” and “it might be a Cabbage Patch Kid so you better come see.” She grabbed her bike and in about five seconds was ready to rocket across our cul-de-sac. In seeing her in such a fevered state of excitement, I decided to leave her with some grand parting words. This started off something like, “There is no way you’re getting a Cabbage Patch doll.” And from there I continued to snuff out every bit of joy from her heart. First I hypothesized it was instead one of those cheap, knock-off Flower Garden Kids. Then I assured her, if there was any chance it was a genuine Cabbage Patch Kid, it was surely used. “Yep, bet she bought it at a garage sale.” Which led to, “Its original clothes will be switched out with a homemade Raggedy Ann dress.” And the worst, “I bet you a million bucks one of its eyes is scratched off.”
Finally, my luck turned around. A legitimate news flash! Cabbage Patch Kids at Wheelers! (Wheelers was a tire store – though they weren’t giving them away with the purchase of a tire, as it turned out.) My dad, who never before cared one iota about providing his kids with the newest flim-flam-thing-a-ma-jig, decided in the wee hours of a Saturday morning to check it out. The doors were to open at eight o’clock and my dad arrived at seven. By then (I would later learn) the line of manic parents was already twisting across the parking lot. Like something of a back alley drug deal, people were allowed in one at a time to a warehouse of shelved dolls. Afterwards, they were blindfolded and driven out to a desolate cornfield where they were left to hitch their way home. (Okay, I can’t be certain on that last part. Perhaps I just assumed this occurred.) When my dad finally made it to the backroom, all that were left were the least desired. That’s right, the baldies. Just the same, he snagged me Gil Evan. Bald and freckled to boot.
I took one look at Gil Evan’s yarn-less plastic head, his mobster-esque face (a cross between Curly from the Three Stooges and Karl Rove) and I burst into tears. My dad kindly offered to take him back the following week. But every so often that day, I’d make it down the stairs from my bedroom to peek into the Wheelers bag. Little by little, Gil Evan worked his way into my heart. By Sunday afternoon, everything changed. I knew he was mine. If I could write this scene for a movie that would play out on the Lifetime channel, it would go something like this. First the dramatic music breaks in as I run down a long hallway. Then I throw open an office door and I slam my fist down on the desk of the social worker and say, “No, ma’am, he is not going anywhere with you. He’s going to live with us – where he belongs! (Voice breaking.) This is the only family he’s ever known!”
As the years passed, Gil Evan was followed by Tilda Bambi. Who was followed by Jervis Craig. Who was followed by Herencia Grizelda (every infinite combination of American names was depleted by 1985). I always wanted a big family.
You’d think that’d be the end of my story, all of my Cabbage Patch dreams finally fulfilled. But if you thought that, you must believe that Cabbage Patch Kids were simply dolls. Ha. Are you kidding? People beating themselves up for a doll? No, this was a religion, one applied to every part of my life. Eating. Drinking. Sleeping. Even dancing. To a song that went something like, “Each night in my Cabbage Patch dreams…” And another that went “Cabbages, cabbages – yum-yum-yum. Cabbages, cabbages – give me some!” I am not joking. My music class performed a Cabbage Patch play in fourth grade. Yeah, in fourth grade that was probably too much. My music teacher Mrs. Johnson was a bit out of touch in her later years.
I once somehow convinced my Kix-is-the-closest-you’ll-ever-get-to-Sugar-Smacks mom to buy me Cabbage Patch Kid cereal. I’m sure this purchase followed one highly animated grocery aisle plea bargain for the ages. No doubt, one that was seeping with heartfelt promises to start anew. Keep my Barbies picked-up, help set the table, drink all my milk, no more chewing entire packages of Hubba Bubba gum behind my bed, and so on. Yes, a speech that would’ve made John Edwards weep with envy.
About that cereal: 1.) It boasted no marshmallows. 2.) It contained no fruit-flavored, purple-colored anything and even featured the daily recommended allowance of riboflavin. 3.) It did not resemble miniature cookies, and 4.) It did not include special 3-D glasses or a mail-in rebate for a transistor radio. 5.) It did, however, contain puffed corn balls shaped like Cabbage Patch Kid heads. Cha-ching!
If my memory serves me correctly, the two to three spoonfuls I managed to work down my throat felt something like shot-gunning a jar of rancid cornmeal. It was that good. Then the full box sat on the shelf of our kitchen pantry for many months as a visible reminder to my mom of why eight year olds should not serve as household decision-makers. Although, never mind the fact that I was an eight year old parent now. With four hungry mouths to feed.
Fun facts on Cabbage Patch Kids, found online here:
- The Social Security Administration alerted state agencies to be on the lookout for Cabbage Patch Kids who were applying for welfare!
- According to Coleco, 20% of the dolls were purchased by boys.
- At the height of the ’83 Christmas season, demand outstripped supply by so much that a postman named Edward Pennington of Kansas City went to London just to get his daughter Leana one.
- The New York Times ran an article about a department store Santa named Vincent Berger who regularly explained the economic concept of supply versus demand to disappointed (and probably bewildered) kids.
- The owner of at least one department store hired an armored car to deliver the Kids and discourage the kind of disturbances seen elsewhere.
- The demand that Christmas also led Coleco to pull its TV advertising as it was overselling the product!
- Stores ran lotteries among those on waiting lists for the dolls.
- A sarcastic radio deejay – most likely recalling the WKRP “turkey” episode – announced during the Christmas ’83 hysteria that they would be dropping the dolls from an airplane at a local stadium and to make sure to head down there with a baseball glove and a credit card.
- There was another shortage during Christmas ’84 that left individual stores with thousands of customers on waiting lists!
- That shortage actually led some stores to buy back the dolls from customers for $40 and sell them again for $60!
- The population of Cabbage Patch Kids reached an estimated 75 million by 1989. The United States population did not pass that number until 1900!