Cabbages and Things

My child grew to love everything that had a label on it.

Take out was part of our “grocery” budget; therefore, dining out soon became “therapy” under the auspices of medical funds allotted each month.  Robbing Peter to pay Paul was nothing compared to my creative household accounting!

I’d dined in a restaurant perhaps two- no more than three -times a year as a child.  Most probably, there existed just a bit extra in Daddy’s wallet so that the family could afford a treat. Normally, dining out had something to do with special occasions; rarely was it to give Mom a break.  Sometimes as a treat, Daddy would run down to Kasper’s and bring home their great hot dogs.  This was more in the later years, after Daddy had retired.

My daughter at age five had eaten OUT more often than I had in my entire lifetime.  Since I worked in our own business, this meant there were days that I was too pooped to boil a pot of water.  We often ran straight from the shop to pizza or local cafes then eventually dinner houses once our child’s taste had developed beyond the pepperoni and cheese group.

At no time did it dawn on me just how dependent her comfort zone had become on the Wendy’s little red head, the Carl’s Jr. happy little star or the golden arches that peeked out from the playground while the Hamburglar threatened to take your plate away if you didn’t hold onto it (Experienced kids planned to bargain with their fries).

I realized this many years later, when in college and living with us in the Bay Area, her tastes ran counter to mine; specifically, what she would eat and from where. She was racing back and forth to college or part-time work; I totally understood as I was once again back in the old neighborhood,  much enjoying the old comfort foods like Kasper’s Hot Dogs,  ¼ Pound Cheeseburgers, and Taco Bell.

Come to think of it, labels had always been around; they were the “you’re ok, I’m ok” system for kids’ clothing and toys; as a parent, I was very sensitive to the need to belong and fit in.  I remembered what it was like to feel like an oddball when my clothes weren’t the latest or from the hottest stores at the time.  I understood how important it was for my daughter to own one or two cool clothing items. That I could manage by watching the sales.

Names and Labels (Branding) had spilled over into our toy chests years before.  One year I specifically described my friend’s Revlon Doll to Mom, explaining how lovely she was and that she was the doll to have.

That next birthday, Mom gifted me with a Sweet Sue.  She, too, was a fashion doll.  No one else had a Sweet Sue.  No one else ever even HEARD of a Sweet Sue.  I was supposed to be grateful so I was. I was still grateful, even when Mom realized the lady at the store had forgotten to put the extra ballet outfit inside.

(Whoa! There was a glimmer of hope here…)

Revlon Dolls had a leotards outfit, so I eagerly mentioned

We can go back and ask for it.

I was thinking…a ballet costume might just meet the requirements when I played dolls with my friend and her Revlon Doll…

No.  Not even a maybe.  We were not going to return to the store.  Mom wasn’t one to go back to complain; whatever extra she might have paid for didn’t matter. Granted, Mom didn’t drive and this would have meant another daytime bus trip downtown.  The situation was neither priority nor a necessity; not in Mom’s world.  As pretty as my Sweet Sue was, she never quite made the grade for me; in my young mind, she might just as well have been missing an arm.

There was no getting around it.  I would have to make sure my daughter enjoyed and eventually owned the same – emphasis same – play things that her peers would recognize.  While I refused to play the waiting in line game that so many parents succumbed to, I still managed to find a little redheaded Cabbage Patch Doll.  “Alina” was the beginning of a collection of these so- ugly- they- were- cute dollies, each with at least a small red tuft of hair.

Who said cabbage was cheap? Must have had it mixed up with something else…