When Cabbage Patch Kids were the coolest of dolls

They had faces like doughballs, outstretched arms and their own adoption papers. JOANNE SAVAGE remembers the allure of the Cabbage Patch Kid

Friday, 31st December 2021, 1:48 pm
The original Cabbage Patch Kid, arms outstretched for a tremendous hug
The original Cabbage Patch Kid, arms outstretched for a tremendous hug

In the 1980s, dolls were a major preoccupation of mine: Tiny Tears, who you fed with a pretend milk bottle that then caused the prosthetic bundle of joy to cry pretend tears, then Barbie, who had the kind of figure I one day hoped to develop but sadly never did, and, my ultimate love: Cabbage Patch Kids, which after a lengthy hiatus are said by toymakers to be making something of a come back. Apparently their innocence and huggableness is once again making them irresistible to children.

I remember getting one off the shelf with great glee at Leisure World, the ultimate jam-packed toy shop and zenith of excitement for children on Queen’s Street in Belfast, long since sadly gone from the cityscape.

I had a My Little Pony the colour of pale lavender that smelled like vanilla ice cream and had neon pink hair in my pocket, but while my brother headed off to look for Power Rangers, Scalextric and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle figurines, I fell in love with this doll with a face like a cheery doughball, woollen hair, a little snub nose, adorable wide eyes, and most importantly, outstretched arms that seemed to be begging for a monumental hug of love.

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Apparently once dubbed “the Marmite of the toy industry” - because parents allegedly hated their piggy, needy features (well mine didn’t) while children loved them - each Cabbage Patch Kid was unique and came with its own birth and adoption certificate. So becoming a mother to a Cabbage Patch Kid naturally appealed to my six-year-old self; what is it about little girls wanting to emulate the maternal instinct?

Anyway, I loved to hug mine, although for the life of me I cannot remember what I named it, and her cutesy outfits and dresses and ever outstretched arms were a source of unalloyed comfort. Cabbage Patch Kids were podgy and vulnerable and I just wanted to lug the poor thing about and mother it, although it did become problematic on long car journeys and when it went missing down the back of the sofa or among other piles of toys (my bedroom could have been designed by Tracey Emin only with hideous 80s woodchip wallpaper).

If I was upset, I hugged it and felt better. Tiny Tears and Barbie didn’t have the same possibility of a gentle, warm and fuzzy embrace.

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