A Cabbage Patch Kid and the joy of giving
For some kids, the best Christmas ever is the year they got “the gift.”
It might have been a bike or a sled or a puppy with big red bow. Maybe it was that Red Ryder air rifle. Maybe it was an awesome new video game.
My best Christmas wasn’t about the gifts I got. It was about the first real gift I ever gave.
It was September 1983. I was 12 years old. My best friend and I haunted the Washington Mall like ghosts, indulging our loves of gravy-drenched French fries and scratch-and-sniff stickers. We knew every store the way a policeman knew his beat. When something new came out, we sensed it in the air.
And so it was with the Cabbage Patch Dolls.
They showed up in a pyramid-stacked display on the first weekend after school started. They fascinated us. Each one was different. My friend Jackie liked this one. I liked that one. We oohed and ahhed over toys that were way outside our allowance limits at $20 apiece.
But then I saw her. A red-headed mop top named Dyanna Cammie. The minute I saw her, I knew my little sister wouldn’t just love her, she would need her. But still…that was a lot of money for a sixth grader in the Reagan years. All I had were four crumpled singles, and that turned out to be all I needed to hand Dyanna over to the nice lady at the service counter and put her on layaway.
My mom thought I was spending too much on my sister, who wouldn’t turn five until Thanksgiving, but she watched as I took my money in, week after week, to pay down the total.
Then it happened. A few weeks into my layaway, the Cabbage Patch Kids disappeared. They were the toy to end all toys and were suddenly vanishing as frantic parents went to any lengths to make sure there were no tears on Christmas morning.
My mother wanted to get one for me, too, but there were no more kids in the patch. A friend with a homemade pattern built the dark-haired baby with the lopsided smile who sat under the tree. I loved her to pieces, and she would spend the next ten years or so on my bed, but she wasn’t the best thing I got that day.
The best thing was when Becky ripped the paper off her biggest box and pulled Dyanna Cammie into her arms. I’ve been there when she held all three of her own kids, and she looked just the same — amazed that this belonged to her.
In after-school specials and religion class, Girl Scouts and Disney movies, the message had been there for years. It is better to give than to receive. It always sounds kind of questionable as a kid. Receiving is totally better, right?
But there is always the one time, the one gift, the special thing that drives home the meaning with blinding understanding. For my son, I think it was last year when he gave me a silver heart necklace that mirrored the gold one his father had given me when he proposed. In a blizzard of wrapping paper, Legos and action figures, he kept focusing on my gift and how much it touched my real heart.
Putting that one doll into my sister’s hands made me warm all over, radiating how much it meant to her, and I know that 35 years later, Dyanna Cammie is still one of Becky’s prized possessions.
Merry Christmas, and may the joy of giving light your holiday.
Lori Falce is the Tribune-Review Community Engagement Editor. You can contact Lori at [email protected]