It was 1985. Amanda’s eyes lit up each time she watched the commercial. Every five year old child needed a Cabbage Patch Kid. The television said so. I had taken a psychology course or two so I knew what those marketers were up to but no matter how hard I tried to convince my little girl that it was all a gimmick to get parents to shell out hard earned money, the more she wanted one.
“I need to adopt a Cabbage Patch baby,” Amanda said day after day. It was hard for her to differentiate between want and need at her young age and when she felt the pull, need always came out the winner.
Money wasn’t exactly flowing like a river and with Christmas drawing near, the struggle to buy gifts and pay bills tipped the scales more in the direction of unbalanced a little too often. I secretly wanted to buy Amanda a Cabbage Patch doll, though, but it was a craze that I had sworn I would not succumb to; no aggressive marketing ploy would make me submit and surrender, no matter how appealing the baby dolls were with their adoption papers and big, beckoning eyes.
I had heard the news stories about Cabbage Patch Kid dolls being sold out within minutes; I was aware of the tales about back order woes and upset children and frantic parents who would line up for hours hoping to score a doll from the next shipment. I refused to line up to buy a doll. Besides we really couldn’t afford it, anyway.
All the same, Christmas shopping excursions included a mandatory trip to the toy department. The yellow boxed babies did not sit on the shelf for long, but with Amanda in tow, it was crucial we checked. Although she knew she needed to adopt a Cabbage Patch baby, Amanda also understood in her own childlike way, that she likely wasn’t going to get one for Christmas. Mommy was a bit of a stubborn shopper and she was slowly learning that my idea of the perfect gift did not necessarily mesh with hers.
All the same, I was lenient when it came to window shopping. The more I watched my darling daughter interact with the boxed babies, though, the more I felt a nudge that maybe I should give a little. I saw how she looked at the Cabbage Patch creations. I listened to her trying to pronounce the name – each one came pre-named. Then I would see the hurt on her little face when someone snatched a box from the shelf. I got to the point where I thought it perhaps time I relinquished. Maybe, just maybe I would talk it over with Daddy.
So I did. We considered our budget and rationalized that she was only young once and we probably should make her Christmas wish come true. I put it on my list. Next time I was in town I would march up to the toy department and adopt the perfect Cabbage Patch baby for Amanda. I could hardly wait for Christmas morning.
It was a week before Christmas and I headed to the department store. Daddy would keep Amanda and her little brother, Trevor, happy and occupied. When I arrived at the store I headed straight for the toy aisle. Dolls of every sort stared back. There were baby dolls, princess dolls, dolls that walked, talked and danced. But I could not see any Cabbage Patch Kids anywhere. I asked the sales clerk.
“Sorry, Ma’am. We sold out a few hours ago.”
“When are you getting more in?” I asked.
“We’re not.” The salesclerk sounded as if she was sick of answering the Cabbage Patch question. Her rolling eyes were an indication.
One week before Christmas. I had finally relented and now the desire for me to find a Cabbage Patch for my daughter was becoming an obsession. Why had I been so stubborn? It was a doll and it was all Amanda had wanted for Christmas. I needed to find one.
I returned to the shopping mall the next day. My shopping trip turned into a mission. But to no avail. I tried store after store. No Cabbage Patch Doll to be found. Eventually, the last store I tried, the sales clerk apologized profusely but then her eyes lit up a little and she pointed to a display.
“We have these.” The helpful young lady pointed to a display of Cabbage Patch Key rings. Squeeze the back, the arms open and they cling to clothing or books. They were definitely cute but definitely not what I was looking for. But I bought one. At least it was a Cabbage Patch Kid in miniature. I had tried.
When I arrived home my sullenness was a dead giveaway. I told Daddy what had transpired and he uttered something about ‘not meant to be.’
Christmas morning arrived. We decided not to wait for Nana and Grandpa to arrive to open gifts. Amanda was anxious to see what was in the glistening packages under the tree. She was gracious. When she opened the little box containing the Cabbage Patch Kid key ring, she smiled and kissed the little doll, cradling it in her small hands, the little silver keychain dangling. I felt wretched. Why had I been so stubborn? I should have shopped earlier. I should have known, given the craze over the popular doll that I needed to plan way ahead. But Amanda seemed content to rock her little key ring baby.
When Nana and Grandpa arrived we settled down for a lovely Christmas breakfast and we chatted away, basking in the simplicity and joy of family. Then Nana pulled out a box.
“Oh, I almost forgot.” She handed a neatly wrapped box to Trevor. He was thrilled when he opened up the blue plastic box full of building blocks. Then she pulled out a glittery red gift.
“This is for you, Amanda.”
Amanda quietly took the box and gently peeled away the pretty paper. A squeal of delight pierced my heart.
“Mommy! It’s a Cabbage Patch Kid!” Amanda cried.
I could hardly believe my eyes. A dark chocolate skinned little baby stared out of the distinctive yellow box.
“Mom? How did you know?” I hugged my more than surprised mother.
Apparently my mother’s friend, Peggy, who loved to shop, had bought a Cabbage Patch Doll earlier in the year. She had no reason to buy one herself, except that everyone was buying them. So when Christmas rolled around she gave the doll to Nana because she knew she had a granddaughter.
Tears flowed for a myriad of reasons that Christmas morning so many years ago. No one was more thrilled, though, than Amanda. She took out the adoption papers and announced that her new adopted baby was officially named Justina Crispina.
“I guess that was meant to be,” uttered a teary-eyed Daddy!
Amanda clipped her key ring to Justina’s dress. My heart skipped a beat…