Everywhere you looked, you could find images filled with bruised and beaten parents crushing one another as they rushed towards store shelves to find that magic Christmas gift. Elbows were thrown, faces were punched, people were injured . . . all for a doll. A Cabbage Patch Doll.
It was the early 80's, and the craze was at it's absolute peak.
I, like pretty much every little girl at the time, wanted one so badly.
I begged. I made promises. I pleaded. I swore I would be the most amazingly well-behaved kid that side of the Black Hills.
It didn't really matter. Cabbage Patch Dolls were harder to find than a classy photo of Amy Winehouse.
But then one day, I found some. I had wandered into the hardware store right beside the trailer park where we lived. Way in the back of the store, high up on one of the top shelves, right next to the green garden hoses and lawn fertilizer, there they sat. Four Cabbage Patch Dolls marked to sell at $50, probably double what they would have cost if they had been at a big box store.
It didn't matter that they were over-priced, they were THERE and no one seemed to have realized it. I ran home as fast as my legs would carry me. I burst through the door and excitedly reported my find to my mom. It was the one and only time I ever saw her roll her eyes, and now that I'm a parent, I think I understand how she felt. I went on and on, trying desperately to drag her out of the house so she would go buy one Right. That. Second. Getting one of those dolls had become The Most Important Thing in the World.
She let me carry on for probably ten minutes or so before she essentially told me to shut my trap. Of course, I wouldn't. I went on and on and on some more, never once relenting. Finally, she promised to talk to my dad about the dolls, but only if I stopped asking about them.
I did, but only because I wanted to go back to the hardware store and stand guard over the dolls.
And stand guard I did, for two solid days. I left their side only to go to school and to sleep. I was convinced that if I stood in front of them long enough, my parents would magically show up and buy at least one of them. No, TWO of them. Why not dream big?
On the third day I rushed home from school, ran to the back of that store, and stood there staring at the empty shelf. All four of the Cabbage Patch Dolls were gone.
I. was. devastated.
Part of me understood why my parents hadn't rushed out to buy one. I knew money was tight. Why else would we be living in a run-down trailer where rent was less than what some people spend on groceries in a week? I understood that there were medical bills to pay, that scraping by meant sacrifice, and that a doll was the last thing our pennies should be spent on.
But I was still devastated.
Time went by and I continued to long for that elusive Cabbage Patch Doll. I wished for one whenever I saw a falling star. I asked Santa, even though I knew he was a fraud. I carefully wrote "Cabbage Patch Doll" on the little Wish List paper our family filled out for the Salvation Army. I told everyone who would listen that I wanted a Cabbage Patch Doll for Christmas.
Christmas rolled around and I cautiously eyed the packages under the tree. I didn't have a room of my own at the time, just a bed that folded out from the couch in the living room. While it was normally a major bottle of suck, on Christmas Eve, it was a blessing. I was able to monitor the gift situation closely.
I didn't see anything that was Cabbage Patch Doll-shaped.
But then Christmas morning I woke up, and there it was. A box the exact right size and the exact right shape and OMG! WAS IT A CABBAGE PATCH DOLL?
It was. Karla Robin. She had curly brown hair and a pink and white dress.
I didn't ask questions. I didn't prod. All I knew is that she was one of the four dolls I had seen at the hardware store a few months prior. I figured my parents must have bought her and hid her, silently torturing me all that time.
Later I found out the rest of the story. I found out that my parents were no longer welcome at that hardware store. I found out that they had, in fact, been banned. I found out that they had written a check to pay for the Cabbage Patch Doll and that there wasn't money in the account to cover that check. It bounced higher than Tigger on speed.
I begged and pleaded. They stole the doll because of it. Perhaps not intentionally, but they stole it. They just wanted to make me happy.
Isn't that what most parents want? To make their kids happy? It seems to matter most at Christmas, that one magical time of the year when dreams are supposed to come true. Sometimes those dreams are bigger than a checking account and sometimes parents aren't able to do it.
Sometimes they need help.
It's that time of year again, dear friends. It's Christmas Crazy time. It's the time of year when I ask you to open your wallets so that together we can make a difference. This year we will once again be working to make sure kids get gifts for Christmas. We'll be working with Alle-Kiski Area HOPE Center, the Woman's Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh, and Toys for Tots. All three will help make sure that your money is used to make Christmas a little brighter for a kid who may need it.
So, got a buck?
(More details about the origins and history of Christmas Crazy can be found here.)
Photo Credit: LisaSchaefferPhoto.
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