The ugliest doll in the shop.

(How a doll from 1984 taught me a lesson last week.)

I walked along the aisle, staring intently at box after box. Peeking at me through each cellophane window was a hopeful face that quietly implored, “Me! Me! Choose me!”

I was as stressed out as an eight year old could be, torn between the one with blue eyes and blonde pigtails and the one with brown hair, dimples and green eyes. I could not believe this day had come. I was going to become a Mommy!

It was 1984 and to celebrate my eighth birthday, I was adopting a Cabbage Patch Kid

This was serious business. Cabbage Patch Kids were not simply dolls, you know. They wereorphans who needed mommies (orphans grown in a cabbage patch, which was slightly weird, but details…) and I felt the full weight of this immense responsibility on my little shoulders.

How was I going to choose the right one? Oh, the agony of indecision. There were endless choices and combinations – dimples on one cheek or both, blonde hair in a ponytail or pigtails. Green, grey or blue eyes. This would be a decision of epic proportions.

Having narrowed my choice down to pretty blonde and cute-as-a-button brunette, I decided to walk another lap and clear my mind.

That’s when I saw The One.

On the bottom row, in a slightly dented box – that had, frankly, seen better days – was the most pitiful Cabbage Patch Kid imaginable. Instead of a frilly pink dress, this doll wore an insipid brown track suit. A woollen beanie slipped down the poor Cabbage Patch Kid’s face, so only it’s mouth was visible. On it’s feet were the ugliest, plainest not-quite-white shoes ever designed. Ever.

“That one.” I pointed at the box.

My mother looked, bewildered, as her eyes followed my outstretched finger.  Why on earth would her little girl want to buy what had to have been the least appealing doll in the shop?

“Are you sure, Mishy?”, she tentatively asked.

I solemnly nodded. I was sure. I carefully carried the box to the counter, serious about this ceremonial ritual that would transport me across the bridge to early motherhood.

As she paid, my mother asked, “What made you choose this baby, Mishy?” 

With tears glistening at the corners of my eyes, I explained, “They’re orphans! This is the ugliest one of all… if I didn’t adopt her, she’d be all alone in the orphanage FOREVER!”

Oh, it was a sacrifice, I can tell you. I was not happy. I had really, really, REALLY wanted a Cabbage Patch Kid in a party dress and fancy shoes, but my conscience just wouldn’t let me. I wouldn’t have been able to leave that pathetic orphaned doll behind. It makes me smile to know that I was a softie, even then – rallying behind the underdog (plastic and inanimate as she may have been).

We didn’t even wait to get home before I was ripping open the box to properly meet my ‘daughter’. I’d successfully shifted my thinking and put aside thoughts of dolls in pretty party dresses. Now, I was desperate to take off her hat and discover whether she was a blonde, brunette or maybe even a redhead. In the toy shop’s car park, I opened the long-awaited package. Tossing the box aside, I blissfully squeezed my new baby to my chest and breathed in that signature Cabbage Patch Kid scent. Then I reached for the beanie and yanked it off.

Sharp inhale. Squeak. Gulp. Gasp.

My. Daughter. Was. Bald.

Choking back a sob and inwardly grieving the hours of hairdressing I had instantaneously lost, I looked my bald baby in the eyes. I resolved there and then that I was her Mother and that I was going to love her no matter what. That’s the deal with motherhood, after all, isn’t it?Unconditional love.

The magical time had now arrived. It was time to learn her name. I had watched the ads on TV where pretty little girls had opened up their Cabbage Patch Kids’ birth certificates and gleefully announced that they were mothers to Veronica Janine! Shirley Francine! Marjorie Violet! With clammy fingers, I carefully opened the envelope and retrieved the extremely official-looking birth certificate. My eyes slowly scanned the information.

No!

It could not be!

My daughter was, in fact, my son. I was now mother to a boy.

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