What The Cabbage Patch Taught Me About Black Friday And The People Of Walmart
If black Friday deals happen on a Thursday, are they still considered Black Friday deals? Shouldn’t it be grey-area Thursday?
While I contemplated whether I should go out to the club or stay in with the family (the club won out), I know some of you were lining up outside of some big box store for 10 $200 LCD HDTV or the five available $19.99 Blu-ray Disc Player, to go along with the other HDTV and Blu-ray you got last year (seriously, it is the same deal year after year). Or maybe you are standing in front of these stores in solidarity with the striking workers of Walmart? No I didn’t think so either. No wonder we can’t have nice things like livable wages and benefits.
You would think Americans would learn from the recession, the recent austerity measures in Washington and the overall Republicans hatred of the 47 percent that our rampant consumerism, in particular our addiction to new stuff, keeps us hostage to debt, co-signs social inequalities and contributes to the further erosion of our environment. Yet every year there is never a shortage of viral videos of Black Friday shoppers, drop kicking each other in the chest to be the first to get their hands on a Furby. And although there has been no report of serious injuries, give it time, the day is still young and the Nintendo Wii U has just been marked down at some store by another 40 percent…
I don’t know why we continue to do it to ourselves. Oh yeah I do. Love for our family and friends and guilt – mostly guilt. This guilt is particularly profound if you so happen to be a parent. Although I have no children of my own, as an aunt of six, I can certainly empathize with the sensitivity and insecurity some parents feel about depriving their children of things they didn’t have growing up – or over compensating because you haven’t been the most attentive or financially secure parent (or in my case, auntie) throughout the years. So we stand in a long and sometimes volatile queue for the pleasure of not looking like deadbeat adults – at least for a few weeks.
Why can’t things be like they were back in the day? In our day, we didn’t need to have all those toys and gadgets for Christmas. We were content with being with family and grateful for whatever gift our parents could afford – even if it was just a stick on a string. We played with that stick on a string like it was the best damn toy in the whole wide world. Of course I’m being factitious. As long as I can remember, parents have been going all out to make the holiday season something special for the youngins. Before the iPads, Kirbys and Playstations, there were Tickle-Me Elmos, Ataris and the Cabbage Patch Doll.
We didn’t have much. My mother, my brother and I shared a small one-bedroom apartment in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. My brother and I learned early on about our financial situation and therefore knew not to ask mother for anything. That’s why it came as a surprise when one morning, my mother asked me, “What do you want for Christmas?” I didn’t even hesitate to tell her what had been on my mind for months, “cabbage patch.”
For those born after the craze, the Cabbage Patch Kid doll was the most coveted toy on the face of the earth. There were kids in my class, who already had several of the cherub face dolls, which came with their own birth certificates. According to the official Cabbage Patch Kids website (yeah the makers are still around) by the end of 2983, almost 3 million of the Cabbage Patch Kids Toys have been “adopted” but demand has not been met. All around the country, there were Cabbage Patch doll shortages and crafty entrepreneurs were selling them at inflated and often egregious prices to desperate parents. My mother scrunched up her nose, “I don’t know if a cabbage patch is in the cards right now but we’ll see.”
The dreaded “we’ll see” was the usual disclaimer for, “odds are, this it ain’t gonna happen kid, and so don’t get your hopes up.” But I felt almost defeated. For days before Christmas break, I had to listen to the other girls in my class brag about finding the Christmas present hiding spot around their house and seeing that familiar yellow and green box. Going back on the “never ask for nothing” rule, I gave my mom my best sad eyes and delicately reminded her of the importance that this doll was to my social life.
“Maybe you should ask your grandmother.” That was a great idea. Every year my grandmother would send to me the big Christmas lookbook from Sears with its pages and pages of toys. I would go through with a black and white composition book and pencil, writing down all the toys I wanted. And then she would edit it with more realistic expectations. But that particular year, I didn’t need the book as I already knew what was at the top of my list. “We’ll see,” she said, as she sighed.
The night before Christmas my grandma called me on the phone and confessed to me that despite her best efforts, there would be no cabbage patch for me under the tree. “It is a shortage everywhere.” I was devastated and moping around all evening. My mom asked me what’s wrong. “If I didn’t have the cabbage patch, what else was there to be excited about?” She rolled her eyes and slapped me in the back of the head, “You getting on my damn nerves.” On her orders, I went to bed early that Christmas eve.
Christmas morning, I awoken, still disgruntled yet ready to tear into some presents. My brother and I ran into the front room and there it was. Beneath the tree was that familiar yellow and green box. Say Word! Suddenly I became the happiest kid in the entire apartment complex. Apparently, when we were sleeping, my mother snuck out to a toy store, which had just announced that it had some Cabbage Patches they had been holding until Christmas Eve. She stood in the cold for hours, with hundreds of other folks, waiting for the store to open its doors for this special sale. When the doors finally opened, all order was abandoned and it was every man or woman for him/herself. People were fighting and shoving and knocking each other down. Store clerks had abandoned their post and let folks do what they were going to do. “I had to fight and crawl over people just to make it to the display where the dolls were at,” she said. I listened in disbelief, clutching my newly acquired Cabbage Patch doll, as my mother told me how she had to physically wrestle the doll out of the hands of one woman, while beating off the grabby hands from other shoppers, who were equally as desperate to lay claim to the doll. “I thought I was going to go to jail that night.”
The birth certificate in the box said his name was Gilbert. He was dark brown skinned with brown hair made out of yarn. I signed the birth certificate in the box; to acknowledge that I had officially adopted him. I cherish that doll to this day but not as much as the thought that my mom was ‘bout ready to beat somebody down just so she could get me this doll. That was love – and a little bit of guilt too. Our living and financial situations weren’t always ideal so Christmas was probably my mother’s way of saying, see, I try. Underneath the tree and behind Gilbert was another doll, which looked like a cabbage patch but it wasn’t in its proper packaging nor did it have the authentic birth certificate or official signature on it. “Oh yeah, earlier in the week, this guy on the Avenue was selling these Cabbage Patches on a stand. I figured just in case. So now you got two. Merry Christmas.” Best Christmas ever.