I do love posting online all those whimsical moments to cherish that I just happen to capture in photographic form while my kid and are are, oh, just out and enjoying our everyday life. And, I so totally never go in thinking, “I need to get a picture of my kid doing XXX because that would make a great photo to post” (instragram.com/betweenrootsandwings). Nobody (especially bloggers) does that, right? Just so fortunate when I have my camera on hand at that lucky, lucky moment…
So, I definitely did not have any images in mind when, as part of our Great Tour of Northeast Georgia (AKA – “visiting Grandma”), we took a drive through some beautiful sub-Appalachian scenery to arrive in Cleveland, GA at the storied birthplace of the inscrutably and profitably uncomely Cabbage Patch Kid – Babyland General Hospital.
Babyland General Hospital is not so much a “medical facility” as it is a “store” masquerading as a “museum,” hidden inside the great walls of a manor that may as well sing a synthesized version of “Tara’s Theme” as you roll onto the estate. The staff all wear doctor’s uniforms to assist in their work of
tidying up the toys kids have dragged around the store caring for newborn dolls. And, every hour or so, they make a show of the most bizarre ritual of “Mother Cabbage” “giving birth” to a new doll. Like much of great world mythology, it’s a spectacle you don’t want to think too hard about or wonder what it might do to your child’s future understanding of science and human reproduction.
I have a complicated personal history with the Cabbage Patch doll. I must have been 6 or 7 when their dimply plastic heads stumbled onto the world stage of “must-have” toys. It was the perfect age to be completely overtaken by “All-My-Friends-Have-One-itis,” and so began my very first sustained campaign to obtain something popular that my parents didn’t want me to have.
My parents thought the dolls were ugly (correct), overpriced (true), and faddish (ding-ding-ding), and so on moral grounds, refused to part with their good American dollars in exchange for one. I felt heartbroken and left out every time my friends paraded out their beloved “Annabelle Sues” or “Ezekiel Marks.”. At some point, my grandmother got her hands on some fake Cabbage Patch doll heads and actually made me a couple of impostor dolls (in retrospect, a pretty massive effort to appease me while following my parent’s moral imperative). But, they didn’t come with a birth certificate or ridiculous name, and I never felt they were quite right. This feeling of injustice carried on in me for literal years until my 10th birthday when, gifted with some spending money, I bought myself my very own red-braided Cabbage Patch doll, which I treasured as a victory of my impending adult freedom when I would, not only buy all the dolls, but eat sugar covered cereal and watch every forbidden episode of The Simpsons.
I give you this background so that you’ll understand where my mind was when, a quarter century later, we trotted my own child off to the actual home of The Cabbage Patch doll. Though my rational adult mind could see how nonsensical this entire operation was, my 7 year old heart wanted my girl to fall deeply in love with some curly haired “Bernice Alana” best friend or bald baby “Henrietta June” that she might care for with self-refilling baby bottles. Her grandmother – she of the ethical high ground – even offered to shell out 70 of her generous Grandmother Dollars to procure one for her beloved granddaughter from abroad.
Twice now, a year or so apart, we’ve taken this child to the abundantly fertile Patch. And, twice, my cooing attempts at building a kinship between her and one of these bloated kewpies have been met with a determined indifference.
I’ve chased her around with my camera ready to snap a moment of adoration between herself and any single one of the multitude of doll-babies, doll-toddlers, doll-schoolchildren to reside within the walls of the Plastic Plantation.
Alas, maternal, she is not…
“Can you sit and smile at Mama?”
“This would be cute and hard to mess up.”
“Here, let me cover up the logo with my arm.”
The more I chased her around espousing the virtues or potential doll matches, the more she looked at them sideways and then picked up toy watering cans or admired the plastic crystals adorning the baby garden. It was as if, by some magical spell, she could see everything in Cabbage Patch land aside from the Cabbage Patch dolls.
Eventually, she did find a friend – a stuffed Rottweiler sitting on a bench, keeping some “kids” company.
“This is my baby,” she told me.
She put him in a stroller and pushed him around the whole store, taking marvelous care of him.
Grandma, naturally, was more than happy to make the canine adoption complete with a swipe of her Visa card.
Later at home, I made one final fleeting attempt at glory. “What’s his name? We could call him Cabbage Patch so that you remember where he came from.”
“His name is Dog,” she replied, and trotted off, satisfied with having the final word.
And so it was that a girl and her Dog reminded me that it’s not her job to mend the little sadnesses of my childhood by stepping into an image I’ve mentally crafted. That’s not her job any more than it will be my job to satisfy her every future dream of having the doll/game/machine/clothing item that “everyone else has.”
It was certainly, as her grandmother puffed proudly, also a testament to our girl’s superior aesthetic sense and good taste – something, she was kind enough not to say out loud – that must skip a generation.