Thursday, September 03, 2009


It's tough to admit you’re a phony, but I guess I’m a phony. I wrote about not being Andy Warhol and saving banana peels in cardboard boxes. I wrote about being a minimalist.

But now I’ve found my Achilles’ heel.

A couple of weeks ago, I opened a huge box in the corner of the basement. Inside was a jumble of dolls and doll clothes that hadn’t been sorted in 15 or 20 years, or whenever I decided that my daughters weren’t playing with dolls any more. I couldn’t really tell what was what, so I decided to just throw everything into the washing machine—dolls, clothes, everything. After all those years, who knew what lurked inside that box.

After the washing . . . 13 clean dolls

After the box’s contents were washed and dried, I started looking a little closer—and that’s when I recognized Elliot’s little face. Oh, Elliot—the bald-headed boy Cabbage Patch baby. Where was Lorna Patricia? The little red-head with one front tooth? I looked carefully at the three red-headed Cabbage Patch dolls, and Lorna Patricia grinned back at me, as if to say, “Don’t you recognize me?”

It was Christmas 1985. Our family, the Stay-at-Home-Stuck-in-the-Muds (mostly for financial reasons) had decided to go to Colorado and spend the holiday with Tom’s two sisters and their families. The kids (ages 4, 6, and 10) were excited beyond description—first airplane ride, skiing in the mountains, traveling!

However, Tom and I explained carefully to the children, all our Christmas money would be spent buying airplane tickets. Did the kids understand that the trip was their present this year? There wouldn’t be anything wrapped up under the tree for them? Yes, they all nodded solemnly, they understood. (Do you sense a Hallmark Christmas story unfolding here?)

We bought the airplane tickets and began planning what to pack. The closer it got to Christmas, the worse I felt about “no presents.” I knew the girls were just dying for Cabbage Patch Kids like all their friends had—so somehow or other, I found the money to buy them each a doll (through legal means, I am certain, although I refuse to divulge the particulars). Secretly, I mailed the dolls to their aunt in Colorado and asked her to put them under her Christmas tree.

On Christmas Eve night, with all the relatives crowded into the living room, the tree was bursting with packages. Two little girls from Minnesota knew there wasn’t a present under the tree for them, and they tried to be brave and cheerful. But it was hard to watch their older cousins open mountains of gifts when they had none (although by the ages of 4 and 6, they were pretty used to being deprived).

Suddenly, their aunt reached under the tree for two wrapped boxes. Smiling, she handed them to my daughters—who looked confused, and then excited. Off came the wrappings, and there were Elliot and Lorna Patricia. My youngest daughter trembled from head to toe. “A bald-headed Cabbage Patch boy!” she kept repeating in disbelief, her little hands shaking as she held Elliot.

My other daughter, a more reserved child, was wide-eyed and quiet, as if she were afraid that the red-headed Lorna Patricia would disappear.

Everyone in the room stopped what they were doing. My nieces sat amid their mounds of gifts and just beamed at the two little girls who each got only one present, but were by far the most excited people in the room. A couple of the more tender-hearted relatives brushed away a tear (or maybe I just made up that part).

Elliot and Lorna Patricia waiting for their first plane ride back to Minnesota. (I have no recollection of what we gave our son for Christmas--evidently just an overnight bag as that is all he is carrying at the airport.)

So now it’s 2009 and I’m trying to minimize my belongings. I certainly don’t need 13 dolls with their 40 changes of clothing.

But Elliot and Lorna Patricia? I think they need to stay.

Elliot and Lorna Patricia, age 24, still lookin’ good in 2009


j9 said...

Not gonna lie, this story always makes me a little teary. I LOVED Elliot, since he was my first official CPK. Elliot is slightly blue from when you washed him with a blue dog. I was devastated. Thanks a lot, Shannon, for getting lice from Melissa F.
Also Mom, do you remember when you sewed Shannon and I those fake ones with generic Ben Franklin heads? We didn't want to make you feel bad, but Shannon and I did not love them very much. They just weren't the same as the real thing!
Thank you for sharing one of the best Christmas stories. You also should have included a picture of the huge trampoline...never got off that thing!

Anonymous said...

That is a great story! I remember the summer before we got them that I would "wish upon a star" every night (before the streetlights came on and we had to come in), as well as include in my bedtime prayers, that I would get a Cabbage Patch Kid. I would look under my bed every morning to see if one had come. Who knew she'd meet me in Denver?!? s.

Stacy said...

Lorna Patricia looks exactly like my Joanna Matilda! Except Joanna didn't have that cute solitary tooth. I just thought to myself "I wonder if my mom has Joanna in a box in her basement, too?" and then I remembered that I convinced her to let me sell Joanna in a garage sale when I was 13. I wanted gas station treats money or something. Sad.

Jenny said...

Jeanine- I AM teary-eyed. This story brought back so many memories.

I remember my sister got a CPK that came with a blue crayon held tightly by the doll's formed hand. Needless to stay that doll now looks more like a Smurf.

2to4aday said...

Stacy: Do you want me to mail you one of the red-headed dolls without a tooth? You can just fake that it's the Joanna Matilda that you sold for a bag of Junior Mints back in 1995.

And Jenny, I can hot glue a blue crayon to any of these dolls. Perfect Christmas gift for your sister. Just let me know . . .