Last week, while I was running on the treadmill and trying to avoid looking at the clock, which was ticking the seconds by ever so slowly, my daughter skipped into the room, dragging an old Cabbage Patch doll behind her. During the next twenty minutes, I watched her change the doll’s diaper (five times!), feed her three bottles of milk, take her for a stroller ride through the maze of toys left on the floor, place her in a grocery cart to go “shopping” at the play kitchen, and then tuck her into a cradle and sing her a lullaby.
(Watching all of this was actually more exhausting than running!)
It was a sweet scene to witness – my baby taking care of her baby doll. And, not just any baby doll, but one I cherished for many years. I don’t have many toys from when I was a child, but this one seems to have stood the test of time.
My mother purchased the doll during the “Cabbage Patch Doll Craze” of the early 80’s. Due to doll shortages (yes, this was actually a thing!), she had to place her name on a waiting list. When she finally received a call that the Cabbage Patch doll was ready to be picked up, Christmas had long since come and gone.
She was instructed to drive to Toys “R” Us at a designated time, pull up to the back of the store, and select the doll. Upon arrival, an employee held up two different dolls from which she could choose.
When she returned home with her selection, I complained that she picked the one with the short hair; I wanted the long haired doll like my sister’s. I also remember being initially disappointed by the name printed on the doll’s birth certificate: Elna.
How frustrating it must have been to go through such efforts only to have your daughter just complain. Now, as a mother, I know this all too well!
Elna quickly became my favorite, though, and hopefully my mom was able to recognize that. I wish, some thirty years later, I could tell my mother that her efforts to secure the doll were not wasted – even on the next generation.
My daughter now prefers my old Cabbage Patch doll over the abundance of her newer dolls. Most of her dolls have shiny hair, fancy dresses, and accessories like shoes and headbands. She even has a doll that pees! However, she often chooses Elna, who has none of these things.
Elna is a bit raggedy around the edges, properly worn out from years of being loved. Ribbons still hang from her hair, but the once bright white has faded to gray. She is missing her original outfit but now wears a set of overalls that one of my aunts sewed for her when I was a girl. More often than not, my daughter drags her around the house without clothes anyway, exposing the green signature on her backside – Xavier Roberts.
Elna often sleeps in my daughter’s bed and travels with us in the car. Sometimes, she even walks with us to the bus stop, so my daughter has something to hold tight as she watches her brother drive off on the bus.
My daughter, she reminds me of my mom sometimes. She has the same blonde hair with a crazy cowlick in the back. She’s impatient and quick to annoy, but she is also really quick to laugh. And, her laugh? It’s the type that people notice; it’s loud and generous – just like my mother’s.
Sometimes when I see my daughter playing with the old Cabbage Patch doll, I like to imagine that the doll is a gift from my mother to her, a granddaughter she was never able to meet. I imagine my daughter saying thank you with a warm smile and giving her grandmother a hug before skipping off to play.
But most likely, because kids are kids, she would probably say something like, “Oh, I wanted the one with the blue eyes, not green.” But, at least I would be able to say thank you. Thank you for the doll, and thank you for a million other things that it took me being a mother to fully understand.
Do you have any of your childhood toys? Do your kids play with them? I also have a nice dollhouse that I can’t wait to break free from the attic and give to my daughter, but the pieces are super fragile, so I’m going to wait a couple of years.