It was the year of the Cabbage Patch Kids, and I was making my bi-weekly visit to the Zayre’s toy department to peruse the aisles, hoping for a surprise shipment of the hottest doll of the year. The toy was all my three-year-old daughter could talk about. Some of her little friends carried their babies with them everywhere they went, and Kailey wanted one of her own to love.
Although I wanted more than anything to make it happen, these special “kids” were nowhere to be found. There were sightings of the doll and frantic buying, only for the toy to disappear, again, leaving some moms triumphant and many others dismayed that their child may not have the most important toy on their list. Although I was doing my due diligence to find the doll, I couldn’t relate to the craziness reported on the news about parents stepping over one another to snatch this plaything. What was the world coming to?
Suddenly, the stock room doors flew open. A large cart appeared piled high with boxes–Cabbage Patch Kids. Women scrambled like crabs holding two or three boxes in their pincers and under their arms. A high-pitched buzz and a horde of bodies descended upon the toy section. My anxiety spiked as I tried to find some space. As the boxes were being attacked, I watched a carton being pushed across a shelf and wedged between the lower shelf and the wall. I lunged for the package, landing hard on the tiled floor. No pain, no gain, I muttered to myself moving forward. I huddled the object like a large football and retreated from the growing mob. I didn’t care which Cabbage Patch Kid I had–blue-eyed, green-eyed, red hair, blonde hair, no hair. It didn’t matter; I had scored!
My knees were wobbly as I made my way to the register, and I thought I might have bruised a rib. The previous week, I had snagged a He-Man figure (Masters of the Universe) and a few of his freakishly muscled cohorts for my son, but there had been no frenzy, just a calm, successful shopping trip. The toys were already wrapped and hidden in a plastic bin in my closet. Although I was pleased and relieved to have them, there hadn’t been that desperation that I had just experienced.
Battered and bruised, I thought an ice cream sundae and a cup of coffee would be the perfect way to celebrate my coup and lick my wounds. I made my purchase and headed directly to Friendly’s next door. With my package in tow, I found a booth, ordered my treat, and proceeded to take the box from the bag. The doll had red hair in two thick pigtails and freckles across her nose. She was perfect.
I couldn’t wait to see the looks on my kid’s faces on Christmas morning. I took a long draw on my coffee followed by a spoonful of fudge. Life was good.
“Mommy,” a young voice screeched, “a Cabbage Patch doll!”
“Excuse me,” her mother said, “Where did you find the doll? Were there any left?” She looked as desperate as I had felt before my death-defying lunge.
“Next door,” I said. “The boxes were disappearing as quickly as the stock boys put them out, but, if you’re quick, you might get one.”
Before I knew it, the woman and her child were out the door rushing across the parking lot.
The chocolate in my mouth was suddenly too thick and sickeningly sweet. Had I really charged like a linebacker to get this red-headed piece of plastic and cloth? Embarrassment set in. I had gotten caught up in a material mania and my priorities had been scrambled. This was not the reason for the season.
I went home, wrapped the package, and put it in the bin along with He-Man. There was no longer any pleasure in the fact that I had gotten the doll.
Christmas morning, my son and daughter were up early. We heard them scramble down the stairs and squeal with glee at the sight of the presents lined up under the tree. My husband and I grabbed a glass of eggnog and snuggled on the couch, watching our children open each gift. Their delight was contagious, and we laughed at their excitement.
My son opened his assortment of Masters of the Universe figures and jumped up and down. His wish had been granted.
My daughter opened the box containing her doll and she began to cry and laugh at the same time. “Santa brought me a Cabbage Patch baby,” she managed to say hugging her ginger-haired doll to her chest. An hour later, she laid the doll in a cradle, also delivered by Santa. From time to time, she picked the baby up, burped her, and ran her small hand over the doll’s pigtails. She was enchanted.
I was still embarrassed by my actions in aisle nine of the department store but watching my daughter’s happiness let me forgive myself a little.
I fished the “adoption” certificate with the doll’s name out of the box. I laughed out loud. Her name was Joy; of course, it was.
My self-recrimination slipped away. I had learned my lesson well. This bit of wisdom was my gift in this wonderful season of love…and joy.