The year was 1983. The hottest Christmas toy -- Cabbage Patch Kids -- were flying off the shelves and leaving parents all over scrambling to put one under the Christmas tree. I was 13, probably too old for dolls. I don't recall wanting a Cabbage Patch…that is until I didn't get one.
Christmas morning, my three siblings and I sat at the top of the stairs, waiting, as we did every year, for my dad to go downstairs to check if Santa had come. He made his way downstairs, started the coffee, and declared that we were up much too early, that Santa had not arrived yet.
We all hollered our objections and tore down the stairs into the living room, which we only really used for Christmas and for sitting in the green chair when we were in trouble. There, under the tree, was a so-ugly-it-was-cute, orange yarn-haired, chubby faced doll peeking out from behind a cellophane window. The doll's birth certificate showed through the window, proclaiming her name to be -- well, I don't remember what her name was, probably because I was distracted by another name on the box:
To Shelley. Love Santa.
This doll wasn't for me. She was for my 10-year old sister. A wave of disappointment swept over me. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I caught sight of another figure.
This one was a doll, too. She had a similar round face with wide eyes, though hers were brown, not blue. Similar, but there was something just a little off. Instead of two pigtails, this doll had dark brown hair pulled back into one pony tail.
She was just sitting by herself under the tree. No box. No birth certificate announcing her name. The only paper this doll came with was a sticker on her ugly white and seafoam green pajamas.
To Amy. Love Santa.
Santa had left me a fake doll. Of course by this time, I knew the truth about Santa, so I knew that my mother, my very own mother, had thrown me under the cabbage bus and left me with an inauthentic version of the best toy of Christmas.
I don't remember my reaction. I hope I was gracious, but I'm sure my disappointment showed. There was my sister playing with her real deal doll, straight from the Cabbage Patch, while I was left holding a square-bodied imposter that did not have Xavier Roberts' signature on its butt.
Looking back as an adult, I can appreciate that my mom took the time to actually make my doll. Sure, she may have risked bodily harm to snag my sister's authentic Cabbage Patch Kid, but she gave up hours of her own time to make mine. I think that doll, whose name I don't remember either, is still in my parent's basement.
I laugh about it now and tell the story to point out how my sister was always the most favored child. I have an appreciation of stretching the Christmas budget and trying to make the kids happy without breaking the bank. Yet somehow, there is still a sting in the memory of the year without a Cabbage Patch Kid.
Earlier this week, I was at #PLAYIndy, hosted by Indy With Kids. There was a Cabbage Patch doll there available for winning. I held out a secret hope that my name would be called. That I would be the one to walk away with the real deal doll.
I'm not sure what I would have done with the doll if I'd won it. Perhaps I would have donated it to the Giving Tree at church. Maybe I would have sold it on the Facebook garage sales. But just maybe, I would have brought her home, taken her out of the box and enjoyed my very own Cabbage Patch Kid.