When In Doubt, Lewis Carroll

I can’t remember my Cabbage Patch Kid’s name. Should I be worried about that? I know this is a weird thing to suddenly start obsessing about in my late 30s, but the thought struck me today and I can’t shake it.

I remember all sorts of things about childhood. I remember the names of the couple who owned the corner store and sold me lollies in paper bags; I remember every one of my pets names, including the goldfish my uncle won me at the Brisbane Ekka that died on the drive home; and I even remember what we ate for dinner the night my younger brother was born 32 years ago. But for the life of me, I can NOT remember the name of this doll.

To be fair I don’t remember having names for any of my toys except two – my stuffed bunny, ingeniously called Bunny; and a doll I named Louie after my imaginary friend when I realized I was too old to be talking to an apparition. But Cabbage Patch Kids were different. They arrived already named. They had birth certificates and adoption papers and a whole backstory on how they came to exist in the world – and everyone except me seems to remember the name of their charge.

I do remember that I changed her name. I even did it through the official channels so that Hasbro would issue me with a new birth certificate, but that name escapes me too. Her original name, like all Cabbage Patch Kids names, was something long and old-fashioned and impossible for a six year old to spell, and knowing what appealed to me at that age I fancy I renamed her something awful like Cindy, but I honestly don’t know. I also recall that I was desperate to go to the Babyland General Hospital in Cleveland Ohio to get poor little No-Name a sibling, though sadly it never happened.

Cabbage Patch Kids are pretty much the weirdest dolls ever created. They’re creepy looking, knobbly-kneed, and have some dude called Xavier’s name signed on their arse. God knows how they ever became so coveted. There are urban legends about owners sending dolls in for repairs and being issued death certificates when they were beyond salvation; and a persistent rumour of the 1980s suggested that the dolls were originally designed to desensitize the public to the appearance of mutated children born in the aftermath of nuclear war – which is probably not a bad description of their big plastic faces and oddly proportioned bodies really. In grade four, I slapped a boy called Stephen when he told me I had the same legs as his sister’s Cabbage Patch Doll. It was not the compliment he’d intended it to be.

Yet like real mothers, we loved and obsessed over them despite their looks. Clearly with their bottles and nappies and feeding routines, Cabbage Patch Kids were preparing us for a life of maternal joy, but by forgetting the damn thing’s name I’ve failed the very first test haven’t I? At worst it shows I’m a shitty adoptive parent who didn’t uphold my half of the adoption contract between Hasbro and me. I guess I should take comfort in the fact that I’m unlikely to ever be a mother to a real human being and the chances of this translating to anything meaningful are slim. Besides, my dog is ten and I’ve never forgotten his name.

But there is a nagging bother that is refusing to leave me. I don’t really like the idea of my childhood memories slowly eroding, and this decidedly weird looking doll has become the embodiment of that fear. I wonder if I’ve killed too many brain cells with alcohol since becoming a grown up. Is the stress of juggling adult life causing bits of childhood to start escaping? It’s not a thought I want to entertain. As the saying goes, being an adult is the dumbest thing I’ve ever done.

I miss the time where my existence was 99% play and 1% worrying that mum would catch me wearing one of her bras so I could make the act of breast feeding seem more real (from what I’d observed of her feeding my brothers, it was all in the way you subtly flopped your tit out into the baby’s mouth without anyone actually seeing your nipple – what can I say? I was a weird kid). I miss that part of life where being lost in your own world was not only completely acceptable, but actively encouraged. I miss feeling sorry for Alice that she ever had to leave Wonderland. And I miss having the time to be fascinated by all the little things around me.

So now my Cabbage Patch Kid is sitting in my lap as I write this silly piece, wearing her ridiculous satin wedding gown and crushed veil, and I’ve realized she smells exactly as she did when I got her over 30 years ago – and then it hits me. Constantine Danica. Her name is Constantine Danica, and I renamed her Kate Jane after two of my school friends.

It’s such a relief to know I can still find my way down the rabbit hole.

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