Posted by: johnhourihan | December 18, 2013

Christmas in the Cabbage Patch

Sometimes, in this modern pacifist life, you just have to hunt.
In order to hunt you need weapons – weapons I just didn’t have for this particular time of year.
My prey on this long-past winter of 1985 or 86 was an elusive favorite of my little girl, and I was determined to bag at least one.
By the time I began hunting them they were about 10 years old. The had a fuzzy matted mane on a huge round head and a soft body, and best of all I figured, they probably couldn’t run very fast.
I spent my first hour of hunting stalking up and down paths in search of the hidden target. Then suddenly I found myself at the customer service booth asking, “Where do you keep the Cabbage Patch dolls?“
The boy with the blue Toys ‘R Us polo shirt smiled a slightly condescending smile that turned into a large delightful grin, and his eyes how they twinkled.
“Not on the shelves ….. Do you know how popular they are?”
”They are dolls.”
“Yes but every kid in the world wants one. As they come in they are sold in like seconds. You will have to put in your name and pay in advance and…”
With that I was gone. They’ll have them at some other store, I was certain.
I spent the entirety of December 10th or 11th driving up and down the magic mile on Route 9 in Framingham, stopping first at every toy store, then at every store.
Then I went home, empty handed.
Everyone had laughed at me. I was devastated.
This was, I was told, what my little girl wanted, and I had believed with all my heart that I, who had gotten himself into college with a blank high school diploma and  reference from the teacher who hated me the most; I, who had spent three years in Vietnam without getting shot; I, who had talked my way into a date with a Playboy bunny, I could find this damn doll.
By the 15th and several forays into the wilderness of Christmas joy I was no further along.
Finally, I got a call from my daughter’s friend’s mother.
It was around the 18 or 19th of December and the secretive voice on the phone had store noises in the background.
“They will be here tonight“ the voice whispered.
“The dolls.. They will be here tonight.”
“Zayres where I work.”
“OK,” I said and began to hang up.
“Don’t hang up,”
Came a squeaky little voice from the phone about a foot away from my ear.
“You have to know how.”
“OK, how?”
I was intrigued. There was a how of getting one of these beyond ugly dolls with matted yarn hair and a face that looked as if it had just swallowed a goldfish, water and all.
“Bring a hundred dollars in fives. Park in front of the store, then walk around to the back near the dumpsters.“
“Who is this?”
She told me, and I shook some cobwebs out of my head. This sounded vaguely like something an Okinawan hooker once did to a friend of mine.
“OK, so go around to the loading dock at midnight.”
“Right,” this was just like what the hooker did. Then two guys took his wallet.
“A truck will pull in, and they will sell them right off the truck. Just take whatever one they give you, and don’t tell them I told you or I’ll lose my job.”
This is not a made up story. This is pretty much exactly what happened.
Fool that I am, and at the time frightened by very little other than an AK47 in the dark, I parked in front of the store and walked behind, into the cold darkness of an early snowstorm.
No one was there, so I leaned against the dumpster and had a cigarette. At the stroke of midnight a truck pulled around the corner and sidled up to the loading dock. The ghost of Christmas presents, I thought.
The back opened and, from no where nearly a hundred people formed a crowd.
The man who jumped off the truck was dressed for Arizona. Probably where these things came from.
He pulled his straw cowboy hat down in front of this face and tightened his dungaree jacket as best he could and shouted his orders.
“Start a line.” He hesitated so I nodded to him in friendship.
“Right here, behind this guy.” He looked at me and smiled.
“OK. There won’t be any change. The price is seventy five bucks. If you have eight tens it is eighty . If you only have a hundred dollar bill it is a hundred. All in cash, no credit cards, no checks, no wampum.”
He turned toward the truck and a sidekick tossed him a boxed doll.
He reached out and I handed him 75 dollars in fives, took my doll and walked off to the side to watch, the mothers and fathers Christmas shopping in back of Zayers, in a snow storm, at midnight, off a truck that had just pulled in from somewhere in Arizona, flown not by Santa Claus but more by Roy Rogers and Gabby Hayes.
Amazing what Christmas and a little girl will make you do.



  1. This is such a GREAT story!!! Keep writing them!

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