Sunday, February 15, 2015

El Cabbage Patch

Readers who grew up in the '80s might recall the Great Cabbage Patch Kid craze that took America by storm. Not to be left out, I begged and pleaded for a Cabbage Patch Kid. I finally got one, but it was a fake one. She was a janky ass, pink haired knock-off that my mom picked up from a street vendor in Spanish Harlem. I knew the difference, but I was grateful anyway and named her Nellie, after the bitchy character on "Little House on the Prairie."

Several months later, through some back channels and a hook-up with an aunt on Long Island, I came into the legit goods. I was so excited that I tore at the wrapping paper without successfully opening the package at first. I stared lovingly at the girl-doll's brown yarn hair as I inspected her outie belly button and the "Xavier Roberts" stamp of legitimacy on her left ass cheek. I named her "Mira Galinda" and sent away for a "birth certificate" bearing that name.

Now, why did I name her Mira Galinda? Well, the Spanish language had fallen on my 7 year-old ears all my life without managing to be absorbed. I would often hear Dominican and Puerto Rican women on the bus or the sidewalk exclaim, "Mira! Que linda!," meaning "look, how beautiful!" Of course, I didn't know what this expression meant, but I knew it was something good and it sounded pretty. So that was how "Mira Galinda" was born.

As the years wore on and Cabbage Patch Kids lost a bit of their popularity, they became cheaper and easier to come by. Before I knew it, I had amassed a small collection of these hideous dolls. I think I even sent one to "camp." (This was some sort of ingenious toy marketing racket wherein you shipped your doll off in a box, wrote the Cabbage Patch Kid company a fat check, and they held your doll in a warehouse for six weeks before shipping it back with a fake picture of your doll in a canoe or roasting a s'more with some other Cabbage Patch Kids).

I also loved to play "scary orphanage" and "finishing school" with the dolls, lining them up in a row and yelling and screaming at them until I achieved compliance. My mom would peek into my room, horrified and confused as to how I'd come to believe that cursing and smacking my dolls upside the head until they fell over backwards was an appropriate form of discipline.

In retrospect, she was probably worried that a social worker would get wind of this and conclude that I was acting out some sort of child abuse via the classic "show me on the doll" tactic.

About this same time, my mom accidentally opened a car door on my face and I got a black eye. She took a picture to document the incident, which confused me at the time, but in retrospect must've been a similar "CYA" move to make sure the social workers knew this was all just an unfortunate coincidence.

In any event, Mira Galinda and a few of her fellow scary orphanage/finishing school alums still sit in my childhood bedroom, none the worse for wear. They were loved, but they were loved with corporal punishment and a Machiavellian hand. In the end, I believe this taught them honor, discipline, respect for God and Country, and the value of a dollar. I wasn't going to hand them anything on a silver platter! No sir. Not this mom.

Life was a little tough for Mira Galinda and her peers at times, but their draconian upbringing has made them the upstanding doll citizens that they are today.






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