Saturday, November 06, 2004


Remember the flurry over Cabbage Patch Dolls several years ago? They appeared on the market with that cute creator's signature on their little behinds, with adoption papers, names, and outfits befitting any beloved newborn. Everyone rushed to buy a Cabbage Patch doll, but they were so popular that the supply just couldn't keep up with the demand.

I bought a Cabbage Patch doll at an auction, and I am so embarassed at the amount I paid for it that I am not going to tell you that detail. Why should I tell you, when I didn't even tell my husband? Suffice to say that I outbid several others who wanted that doll, but I took it home and presented it to my granddaughter. It's name was "Hubert", I remember, and it was a bald, ugly, gnomelike creature clad in a little blue jumpsuit.

Hubert did not survive life with my granddaughter, who seemed to have a callous disregard for the health of her toys, a trait she shared with my five sons, whose toyboxes always looked like miniature Parts Departments, a piece of a toy here, a piece of a toy there. I know there are children who are careful of their toys. I just have never met any.

My first doll was a homemade one, created from a corncob and a healthy handful of cornsilk from my father's fields. I can remember the lustrous red of that cornsilk and the satiny feel of its slick beauty. It was so gorgeous, so enticing, that I made many more of them, each with a different color of cornsilk, blonde, brownish blonde, reddish blonde, etc. My father found out about this and was angry, denying me access to the cornfield, explaining that the corn would not grow without the silks. But, through the years, I have never forgotten that irridescent color. Clairol could never match the glory of my cornsilks!

The Cabbage Patch doll craze has faded away, to be supplanted by other items. You could say that today's fad becomes tomorrow's litter, for my grandchildren have Beanie Babies strewn from one end of their homes to the other, and we are all swamped with Barbie and her neverending, miniature paraphernalia.

Barbie just about ended the need for "baby dolls". Who wants to fuss around with diapers and bottles and constant feedings when they can have endless vacations, romances, girlfriends, little sisters, and all kinds of real estate? Last year, I bought another little granddaughter a Barbie Makeup Kit that held more bottles and tubes than a well-equipped laboratory. She proceeded to paint her face and the face of everyone around who was cooperative, as well as redecorating the walls of her room. She applied makeup to the dog, the cat and the refrigerator. Every piece of clothing she owned had a decidedly rainbow tint.

But Barbie isn't limited to cosmetics. She goes to Hawaii, goes skiing, golfing and horseback riding, wearing appropriate outfits, and can dress up for a nightclub at the drop of an earring or scoot into her limousine for a big night out in a lowcut evening gown and shimmering jewels. She has a kitchen, of course, with a full array of pots and pans, but doesn't linger there long before she is off to another adventure on a tropical island, complete with suntan lotion, string bikinis, and sunglasses. Everything Barbie owns is the size of a peppercorn and ends up embedded in the carpeting or resting in your soup.

I'm more than a little envious of Barbie. She not only has the shape of a fashion model, but she has closets of clothes, a beautiful home, and a seemingly endless supply of moolah to hop onto a plane and explore the world. Who would want to return to grim reality after playing with a Barbie? It would be like returning to the farm after visiting gay Paree.

Of course, she has her serious side, too. Barbie is a stewardess, a nurse, a schoolteacher and a pilot, among many other occupations. If one adds it all up, Barbie should have spent 142 years in college to get the degrees needed, but then, we shouldn't quibble, because there are no Barbie colleges as yet. Barbie can change occupations with each outfit, and she can easily inspire the dreams of many little girls. She may inspire anorexia, too, but that's another story.

Inevitably, when I buy toys for the children, I head for the electronic section to buy games for the boys....and for the girls, well, there's always Barbie. It makes one wonder if this emphasis on dolls for girls and action toys for boys is a good thing. Unless you put a military uniform on it and add a gun, boys are not too interested in dolls. I can't even imagine a young boy being interested in a Nurse Ken, a schoolteacher Ken, a steward Ken. The girls explore every facet of life with their dolls, while the boys play war games on electronic equipment. No wonder that, when they grow up and marry, they have two separate views of life.

I always think of the animated film, Toy Story, with fondness, for it featured many of the older, well-loved toys. Remember the Etch-a-Sketch? Still going strong. It is good to see the rebirth of some of the old favorites. They are tried and true, and bring hours of enjoyment to children.

To see all of these toys brings back memories of Christmases and birthdays when my children were young. How many Mighty Mo's have I found rusting in the weeds? How many Tinker Toys have I stepped on while barefoot? How many bicycles has my husband inadvertently ran over trying to pull out of the garage?

Since the first little girl made a doll out of corncobs and cornsilk, since the first little boy carved a whistle, toys have played an important place in our life. But where do toys go when they die? I have raised five boys and one grandson, who was with me for five years,....and I haven't one toy that survived. But, in my china cabinet, rests two oldtimers....a lion and a bear piggy bank, both made of cast iron. We do not yet have a cast iron Barbie, but it might not be a bad idea.

Blogger Becky said...

This post brought back memories of Christmas for me. My mother always went crazy at Christmas time and each of us kids would have a pile of toys under the tree that must have been brought in not by Santa's sleigh, but by Santa's HEMI powered dump truck.

I've had one cabbage patch in my life, she was one of those wiry-haired ones, the type you could curl or leave straight. I was never one for dolls so I don't know where she went after the novelty of a new toy wore off and she was abandoned, I suspect though that one of my sisters must have acquired her and undoubtedly cared for her more than I did.

Instead, I had strawberry shortcake and my little pony. Both of those toys are making a comeback, I discovered a few months ago when looking for a birthday gift for my niece. Those are the kind of toys every little girl should have.

Though, I must give Barbie credit where it is due, it was my population of Barbie dolls, which grew by 5-10 new Barbies each Christmas, that helped me eliminate a possible career path. It was Barbie, and none other, that helped me determine that being a hair stylist was not the right choice for me - well, okay, perhaps my dog Dexter contributed a little, poor Dexter.

11:10 AM  

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