It was the year 1982 and Cabbage Patch dolls were all the craze. And just like any other four-year old girl at the time, I wanted one. Badly. And I let my mother know. Numerous times. Every time we were out at the store, I would look up at the giant displays of dolls and beg my mother for one. If a Cabbage Patch doll commercial came on TV, I pleaded with her. Each time, however, I received the same, ‘no’.
September of 1982, I was enrolled in kindergarten. I remember not liking school, but not because of the curriculum, other kids, or my teacher. I didn’t like school because my younger sister ‘T’ was able to stay home with mom. My mother loved to flaunt all of the “fun” that was had by the two while I was at school. Trips to McDonalds, trips to the park, the store. I was jealous.
My birthday rolled around in October. Do you think that I was gifted one of the greatly sought after Cabbage Patch dolls for my fifth birthday? No.
My mother must have seen the dollar signs that the Cabbage Patch craze was pulling in. She bought some of the doll heads and fabric and began making the dolls to sell. They were terrible looking. The legs and arms were too long, the stuffing loose. No baby powder smell, no Cabbage Patch insignia on the butt. The only thing that looked authentic were the heads. But, she did sell a couple of the dolls – mostly to grandmotherly types who didn’t really understand the difference. But I did.
One day in November, I came home to find my little sister ‘T’ snuggled up with a brand-new, store-bought Cabbage Patch doll. I was elated! Surely my mother purchased one for me as well while they were out? Once again, my friends, that is a big fat NOPE.
I was told that ‘T’ was there and I wasn’t, so she got “dibs”. Looking back, the favoritism was extreme. I think my mother actually enjoyed seeing how destroyed I was, over and over again, when she chose one of my siblings over me.
It wasn’t just a Cabbage Patch doll. The favoritism started in my childhood and lasted well into adulthood. My sister, and eventually my little brothers constantly got preferential treatment over me. My brothers were angels and could do no wrong, while I took the blame for everything since I “was older”. I was told that I would have to pay for my own car/gas/insurance after I got my license, my sister ‘T’ was allowed to take out a loan with my mother as a co-signer, and had her insurance paid for. My mother told me that I needed to figure out how I was going to pay for college, while my sister’s tuition was paid.
I remember crying myself to sleep the night I walked in on ‘T’ and her new doll, holding on to the thought that Santa wouldn’t possibly let me down.
Christmas morning, I awoke to find…. a lopsided, hand-made Cabbage Patch doll under the tree with my name on it. I was devastated. And I knew. And my mother knew I knew. She put on a show in front of my sister about being one of Santa’s elves, and he had asked her to make me a doll. Then she grabbed my arm and roughly dragged me into the other room, belittling me through clenched teeth.
I was ungrateful. I was an ungrateful little shit. She had taken the time to make me a doll. She told me that there was no Santa Claus, and to “keep my fucking mouth shut”, that I “better not ruin it for my sister”, that it was “time to grow up and face reality”.
Five years old, and my innocence and belief in the magic of Christmas was shattered.
And yes, there are kids out there who have it way worse, and don’t get a Christmas. I feel for them, I really do. But this is my story. This was my childhood. This was how I found out that there was no Santa.
There are quite a few years of difference between my three children, ranging 14 years from oldest to youngest. Obviously, my 20-year-old has been let in on the secret, and most likely my 11-year-old as well. But never once have I ever discussed with my children that Santa isn’t real. And I never will. Maybe they see how important believing is to me? Maybe it is purely selfish and they know that if you don’t believe in Santa, you don’t get Santa gifts, lol. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t matter.
In this house, we believe. In this house, there are no favorites. In this house, we hold on to every bit of innocence and magic and good that we can.
If that means positioning that damn Elf on the Shelf every year until the last of my children move out the house, then so be it. I will not force my children to “grow up and face reality”. Especially not during Christmas-time.