This post goes out to anyone who has ever had a doll who suffered some gender confusion.
First, let’s talk for just a brief moment about Cabbage Patch Dolls. I never had one. I think I was just barely past the doll phase of life when these dolls hit the local KMarts. So I watched the craze through suspicious, judgmental eyes. Apparently, my meat roll comrade, Kelley, bought in FULL FORCE. In fact, she bought in with such force that, after whipping down a frothy mob of cabbage patch shoppers, all she could get–all that was left–was a boy. Maximillian. Maximillian? Really? Did they want people to buy him? Maximillian is the boy version of the name Dolores. You just can’t snuggle that.
At any rate, Kelley fought for this guy. Then she made him a girl.
“I helped her through a difficult life decision in her early years. She decided she was more comfortable as a girl,” Kelley said. “This is Chrissy Marie.” Ah, Chrissy Marie. The fact that one cannot tell you were ever a Maximillian is a testimony to something. I don’t know what that something is, but it’s something. After you gawk at the picture of Chrissy Marie sitting amongst the flowers of her grandmother’s garden, take a gander at the 1980s Cabbage Patch TV commercial. It stars the original Maximillian, so you’ll be able to better imagine the extreme nature of the transformation from Maxi to Chrissy.
And then there was my doll. She was a Drowsy doll made by Mattel in the 1960s and 70s. Apparently she was re-released last year. I didn’t know that. When I got her, I think I named her Cindy. Then I decided she didn’t look like a Cindy, so I renamed her Tom and she full-out became a boy who wore a pink jump suit with white polka dots. Tom was awesome. He went everywhere with me. He even took a nasty swim in the toilet one day and I went running and screeching into the kitchen where my mother was on a corded avocado green telephone that was attached to the wall and you had to dial with your index finger. What is this, 1975? Oh, yes. Actually it was. She rescued Tom from the toilet, but his quality of life was gone after that. I don’t actually know what happened to him. I suspect my parents threw him out. I do remember him being layered in dirt and filth. And after that toilet swim, it was layer upon bad layer, if you know what I mean. You do. We’ve all dropped dolls into toilets. You know we all have. So Tom disappeared. And Mom and Dad replaced him with one just like him.
Replacements are usually underwhelming. Unloved. Poorly reviewed. This one began just that way and then found his way into my heart. I named him Thomas. I know. I really stepped out with that one. Thomas, like his predecessor, went everywhere with me. But my fondest memory of Thomas was his speech impediment. He could not say Ls. They came out as a ‘y’. For example, “lullabye” came out “yuh-yuh-by” when Thomas was talking. Thomas talked a lot.
One day, while on our way to Niagara Falls IN A CAR (this takes about 3 years if you are driving from Florida with 2 kids and a doll with poor speech patterns), my brother decided to undertake some speech therapy. He was going to teach that boy to say his Ls.
“OK, Thomas, now say this…Luh,” my brother said. I went along.
“Luh,” Thomas said. Bro lit up. He was making progress!
“OK, good,” he continued. “Luh…”
“Luh,” Thomas said.
“And now ‘Bye,'” he said.
“Bye,” Thomas finished.
“OK. Now all together. Luh-luh-by. Lullaby.”
“Yuh-yuh-by,” Thomas said. My brother dropped his head.
“NO!” he fussed. “Let’s try again.”
And we did. 1843 more times. We did that same sequence all the way to Canada, people. How my parents didn’t turn around and smack the lullaby out of us, I don’t know. I guess they were just glad we weren’t asking how much longer so they wouldn’t have to answer “2 1/2 more years, kids.”
Ah, Thomas. Love you, man. Still.
He still can’t say his Ls. And I won’t have it any other way.