A few weeks ago, as She Who Must Be Obeyed was celebrating her birthday, we ended up making a trip to the hospital. It was a harrowing experience.
Elder Daughter had flown in from Washington for the occasion; we had spent the day with her and her younger sister, the Mistress of Sarcasm, gallivanting about North Georgia. We had wandered the faux-Alpine streets of Helen, taking our luncheon by the banks of the languid Chattahoochee River and contending with a battalion of flies who wished to share our chicken wings. Our daughters had never been there, and SWMBO and I had a great time watching their astonishment at seeing this slice of Southern-fried Bavarian bologna.
But on the way home, we had to go to the hospital. There was no way to avoid it. No, it wasn’t a sudden bout of food poisoning or sunstroke. No palpitations, flatulence, catarrh, chilblains, or scrofula. Because this was not just any hospital. This was BabyLand General Hospital in Cleveland, Georgia… home of the Cabbage Patch Kids.
BabyLand General sits in the midst of a full square mile of open land, reminding one not so much of a hospital as of an antebellum plantation house. The facility is immense – fully 70,000 square feet – the lobby alone being the size of your average Knights of Columbus hall.
It’s widely known that BabyLand General is the brainchild of one Xavier Roberts, a former art student who wandered off the reservation, so to speak, becoming enmeshed in the dark world of genetic manipulation. His twisted experiments in reproductive biology — experiments that gave rise to the Little People, progenitors of the Cabbage Patch Kids – – violated every miscegenation law from the Jim Crow days in ways never previously imagined. As one of the nurses at BabyLand General explained it, Bunnybees (a bizarre insectoid-mammalian hybrid) scatter “magical crystals” (Bunnybee spooge) over the cabbage patch, resulting in an even more bizarre genetic mashup of Bunnybee and cabbage. Amazingly, this interspecies Love-Orgy results in a creature that can only be described as a wizened, wide-eyed homunculus born, not of man and woman, but of cabbage-head. It baffles science!
In the lobby of BabyLand General one can view display cases containing some of Xavier Roberts’s earliest experimental results. Some are, apparently, stuffed and mounted; others reside in banks of formaldehyde-filled jars, floating like so many medical school fetal cadavers.
Proceed past the lobby and there are more rooms: incubators, nurseries, recovery rooms. There’s a classroom where, presumably, little Cabbage Patch Kids are taught the sinister secrets of their personal biology. And there is even a catering hall and restaurant, where fans of the Little People can host weddings, first communion celebrations, quinceañeras, and bar mitzvahs. Cabbage dishes — borscht, stuffed cabbage, cole slaw, and the like — are prominently featured on the menu.
The Main Attraction, though, is Mother Cabbage, who appears to have grown around the base of the Magic Crystal Tree like some sort of fungoid mycelium and from whom the little Cabbage Patch Kids are pooched out at regular intervals with the friendly assistance of one of the nurses… a process that the girls and I watched in slack-jawed horror. (“We’re about ready…Mother Cabbage is dilated to ten leaves!”) Thank Gawd my presence in the delivery room when She Who Must Be Obeyed gave birth to Elder Daughter and the Mistress hardened me to the experience, else I might have swooned dead away. I noticed that the nurse-midwife had adequate provisions of hot water at her side during the birthing procedure. When I asked her about it later, she assured me that it was only there “to make cabbage soup.” Gaaaah.
Mother Cabbage, of course, is physically unsuited to care for her numerous offspring — more, even, than the Octomom! — given that she is incapable of locomotion. And thus the little Cabbage Patch Kids must be given up for adoption as soon as is practicable. It’s a regrettable situation, but one that has enriched Xavier Roberts immensely, for he collects a considerable fee for handling each adoption. When the Kids were at the peak of their popularity back in 1983, Roberts’s income was higher than the GDP of one (and possibly two) of the G7 countries.
As for the Cabbage Patch Kids themselves, this adoption business is a real crapshoot… for the sole standard appears to be the presence of sufficient “cabbage” in the prospective adoptive parents’ bank accounts. There was an unpleasant little affair back in the late 1980’s when it was revealed that numerous Cabbage Patch Kids were effectively being sold into indentured servitude, working sugar cane plantations in Haiti and guano mines on the islands off the Peruvian coast. (Rumors that some Kids had been found in a Romanian brothel turned out, fortunately, to be solely the fabrications of a disgruntled nurse-midwife who had been fired for cause by BabyLand General.) But the imposition of somewhat stricter screening criteria, coupled with a few discreet payoffs, eventually quieted the baying of the News-Hounds… and some of the Kids said that they actually preferred chopping sugar cane in 110° heat to life at “The B.L.G.”
Of course, like all living things — no matter how mashed up their DNA — Cabbage Patch Kids do not, alas, remain kids forever. Eventually they grow to Cabbage Patch adulthood… and eventually they, too, succumb to the ravages of Time. It is then that BabyLand General rises to what is perhaps its greatest task: attending to (former) Cabbage Patch Kids who have gone back to the great Cabbage Garden in the Sky. The wizened little Cabbage Patch Corpses are brought back under the loving branches of the Magic Crystal Tree and buried in the earth standing up, with only their heads above ground, there to return their precious nutrients to the bosom of Mother Cabbage.
It must be confessed that both Elder Daughter and the Mistress of Sarcasm thoroughly enjoyed their visit to BabyLand General. Seeing the Cabbage Patch Kids (and those Bunnybees) in their native habitat was, for them, a wonderful exercise in nostalgia. I am sure they will treasure the memories of that day forever, even as I try to scrub them from my consciousness.