It’s 1983 and Cabbage Patch Kids are taking over the world. In that first year the toys were available, some 3 million were sold–or rather “adopted” in their clever parlance. In that same year, my father-in-law Bill was driving a truck for TG&Y, a long-disappeared retailer, a position that put him in direct contact with the bulk of the merchandise that flowed into the stores he served.
During the fall and Christmas season of 1983, Bill delivered, among other things, many cases of Cabbage Patch Kids. While most of the dolls made it onto the shelves at the various TG&Y stores, a few were “liberated” by employees who used their access and employee discount to buy dolls for their loved ones. Bill latched on to one and then another and then another. By the end of the season, he had somewhere around 10, despite having only one child in the family who might reasonably be expected to play with them.
It was during that Cabbage-Patch madness in the days before Christmas that some stranger discovered that Bill had just obtained another doll. “I’ll give you $700 for that doll,” the stranger said, displaying a stack of bills to prove his earnestness. While $700 is a good chunk of change today, those 1983 dollars would be worth $1,800 today.
“No sir!” Bill quickly answered. He wasn’t going to part with that doll. He’d somewhere heard that Coleco wouldn’t be making them after that year–because you know that manufacturers frequently stop making things are selling extremely well.
Eventually, over several years, Bill, mostly driven by his wife, hoarded north of 75 Cabbage Patch Kids. The hunks of plastic eventually took over most of a spare bedroom in their home. When they finally tired of the dolls, they could barely give them away. They might have felt like Solomon:
I increased my achievements. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made gardens and parks for myself and planted every kind of fruit tree in them. I constructed reservoirs for myself from which to irrigate a grove of flourishing trees. I acquired male and female servants and had slaves who were born in my house.I also owned livestock—large herds and flocks—more than all who were before me in Jerusalem. I also amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I gathered male and female singers for myself, and many concubines, the delights of men. –Ecclesiastes 2:4-8
My in-laws didn’t learn from the Cabbage-Patch fiasco. They’ve been obsessed with Precious Moments and Hallmark Christmas ornaments. Currently, she has dozens of Longaberger baskets and cannot keep herself from accumulating more. Each time, they buy at the peak of the market and sell when they–and everyone else–has lost interest.
How often do we put our emphasis on the accumulation of money or things? Whether it is frivolous junk or the productive things Solomon claims, when we lean upon our possessions, we will be ultimately disappointed. An increase of fruit trees means an increase of responsibility and an increase in worry along with an increase in fruit.
This is not to say that possessions are bad. But possessions that are not owned to achieve something beyond what they can give will be just as pointless as a small army of Cabbage Patch Kids in a spare bedroom.