There are a lot of things that I don’t remember about growing up, but I do remember my first best friend. She currently holds court from the dresser in my bedroom and made a cameo in my last blog post. The way I remember it, The Mother took me aside one evening and asked if I had any room in my bed that night. I asked if she needed a place to sleep and she said no she didn’t, but someone else did. And that began the relationship with me and Janis Evita that has lasted for more than 30 years.
As a girl, she traveled the country with me, had adventures with me and kept me company when I was blue. She underwent surgeries under The Mother’s gentle care and it was always vaguely traumatizing listening to the “THWACK! THWACK! THWACK!” she made when she was in the dryer. There was a tragic evening when was she was forgotten in my dad’s truck at the service station and I cried, worried about her alone that night and how scared she must be. But the way I remember it, my dad drove all the way back to retrieve her and everything was okay again.
According to Wikipedia, Cabbage Patch Kids were one of the most popular toys of the 1980s but I didn’t realize that when I was a kid, I just knew that no two were alike. Researching the Cabbage Patch now reveals how completely and utterly clueless I have been for my entire life about these dolls. I had no idea that there were characters that played a role in their story, or that they even had a story. Yes, I did notice that “Xavier Roberts” was tattooed on my dear dolly’s left butt cheek, but I didn’t know that he supposedly discovered the Cabbage Patch Kids being born in a magical valley behind a waterfall after following a “BunnyBee.” There was also an evil old woman named Lavendar McDade who wanted to enslave The Kids in her gold mine and was aided by two henchmen (Cabbage Jack and Beau Weasel), so Xavier desperately worked to get The Kids adopted outside of Mount Yonah. Mount Yonah? Did I live under a rock when I was a kid? How did I not know any of this?
In Mount Yonah, the cabbage patch blossoms were pollinated by BunnyBees who were bee-like creatures that used their rabbit ears as wings. Their magic crystals made Cabbage Patch babies who were looked after by Colonel Casey, the stork who oversaw Babyland General Hospital.
The original dolls were called “Little People” and were created by Xavier Roberts in 1978. Xavier had the help of four women (nameless on Wikipedia) and inspiration from a Tennessee artisan named Martha Nelson. The dolls were sold at craft fairs and were all cloth until they were licensed by Roger Schlaifer who co-authored the above “Legend of the Cabbage Patch Kids” with his wife in 1982.
The vinyl head as we know it today came to be when mass-production of the dolls began in 1982 by Coleco. Coleco manufactured the dolls until they filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1989 and since then, they have been mass-produced by Hasboro, Mattel, Toys R Us and now, by Play Along. Wikipedia reports that at the peak of their popularity, parents were periodically in fights over the dolls especially during the holiday season.
Janis Evita was not a Christmas gift. In fact, I don’t recall there being any special reason for The Mother to choose that evening to give her to me, but she became part of my life forever. She lost that one-of-a-kind Cabbage Patch smell decades ago, but I can still remember it when I press my nose against her yarn-loops of hair. Thank goodness for magic crystals pollinating cabbage patches by BunnyBees in the 1980s.