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Cabbage Patch Kids hit 25th anniversary

2008 is a milestone year for the doll that sprouted the biggest toy craze of the '80s -- Cabbage Patch Kids celebrate their 25th anniversary this year. My Grandma Hacking, and many others, thought the dolls were the ugliest things they'd ever seen. But they were the objects of desire for many young girls who spent hours staring at the yellow boxes containing the dolls that interrupted the wall-to-wall pink on the girls' side of toy stores.

And I was no exception.

My first Cabbage Patch Kid was Diggory Joseph or Jo Jo as I called him. I signed his adoption papers and my sister signed as the witness. They were official papers after all. The birth certificate was even signed by Xavier Roberts and was stamped with the doll's foot and finger prints. These identifying marks certified that this was a real Cabbage Patch Kid. The papers made clear that this fact was important and it certainly was. Grandmas and crafters tried to replicate the popular dolls with homemade versions. Most sewing stores had creepy displays of Cabbage Patch Kid heads in plastic bags that could be attached to bodies sewn by enterprising, economy-minded homemakers.

Not surprisingly, these imposters were entirely unacceptable to most children. They wanted the real dolls, which were surprisingly expensive for being such a popular toy.

Some children, less influenced by Cabbage Patch commercials, were satisfied with these knockoffs. However, their pleasure in these homemade creations didn't always go unchallenged by their peers.

When I was in second grade one of my classmates made an unfortunate decision to bring a Cabbage Patch Kid his grandmother had sewn to school. He proudly displayed his new toy and with innocent cruelty the rest of us laughed at his homemade doll. The doll was much larger than a regular Cabbage Patch Kid and the boy was small and named David. So, being clever, we decided to call the pair David and Goliath. We had a few seconds of fun and created a memory to be ashamed of long afterwards.

I eventually received a homemade Cabbage Patch Kid myself. Like David, mine was courtesy of my grandmother, although she bought it at a craft show instead of making it. And the doll didn't come with any ridicule. This particular homemade version was well made and quite cute with its print dress and matching bloomers but it was stiff and didn't fold into the crook of your arm like a real Cabbage Patch Kid. It wasn't the doll of my dreams. Part of the appeal of the real Cabbage Patch Kids was their dimpled knees, soft-sculptured individual toes, outie belly button and the seemingly unpronounceable Xavier Roberts signature stamps on the dolls' bottom.

I never had to be content with an imitation Cabbage Patch, though. An inheritance my mother received from her aunt and uncle allowed my sister and me to purchase dolls after we were each allotted $40, which was an unheard of fortune at the time.

The decision to adopt a boy kind of surprises me in retrospect. I couldn't outfit Jo Jo in pretty dresses. Instead he wore a football uniform complete with a green jersey, pads and a helmet. He had no hair to play with - just a smooth bald head.

It was the hair on the girl Cabbage Patch dolls that presented the problem, though. My sister and I didn't like that it was made from yarn. Most of the boy dolls came with looped yarn hair as well, but we managed to each find a bald one.

The task wasn't easy but I got my real doll. I did have to wait until they came out with Cornsilk Hair Cabbage Patch Kids, before I could get a girl doll. Fanny Marlene had shiny, blond hair that you could comb instead of the plain yarn hair.

Jo Jo and Fannie quickly became cherished dolls and assumed the preeminent spot in my toy collection. I played many hours of house with them. I changed their diapers, fed them and dressed them in outfits for different occasions. I even invented a father for them. Since no boys were welcome to play house I usually situated the dad off in the army in France. That was the most convenient solution.

My Cabbage Patch Kid dolls are packed away in my parents house and I haven't seen them in years. It's always a little disconcerting to encounter toys you spent years pretending were your children. They look a lot different now. They seem smaller than they used to and are a little dirtier than when I first freed them from their boxes.

But at one time they had personalities and I knew them. They were real. At least real dolls from the cabbage patch. And they have the signature on their bottoms to prove it.