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Two Curmudgeons Boomers at Babyland General – Impressive
“Have you ever been to Babyland?” Roger asks as we drive along highway 11 near Cleveland, Georgia. The question seems a bit odd coming from a seventy-something, white-haired, former special forces, Green-Beret warrior. He is a relative and a friend. A man’s-man. He and John Wayne would get along fine. He is the kind of guy that Evil Knievel would hang out with… and did.
“No,” I reply, a puzzled look on my face. My mind quizzes myself, “Do I look like the kind of guy that would find appeal in a doll factory?” I leave the question to my mental ethersphere. I don’t want to hear the answer. I remember that my two daughters had Cabbage Patch dolls when they were small. Now that they are grown with kids of their own, they still have them tucked away in a drawer or on a closet shelf.
“You want to go? It’s right up ahead.” He says.
“Do you want to go?” I come back.
“Why not?” he says.
“Why not?’ I say.
Roger turns the huge, white, Chevy Silverado onto Hulsey Road. A brief time later the sign directs us to N.O.K. Drive where we drop over a hill and there it is, the faux-kinder-delivery site.
A large signs hawks, “Cabbage Patch Kids Babyland General Hospital, Cleveland GA.” Around it are acres of green, manicured lawn boardered by forest growth.
It looks like the plantation house of Tara from Gone with the Wind. It literally shines on the hillside. I don’t see Scarlet and I don’t see the Tarleton boys, but this is impressive.
My curiosity peaks. This may be worth the visit… even for an old guy. Out front of the columned porch and colonnade a gaggle of Canadian Geese feed on the front lawn. “Why do they call it a ‘gaggle’?” I ask myself. “Do they gag?” Why not just a ‘flock’… I digress… The geese scurry uphill as we stop for photos. Roger continues then turns in to the drive. The geese migrate back down after we pass.
In front of the building are large, white, plaster casts of garden vegetables with baby head insets. They stare blankly into the sky with their machine-washer-like eyes. It’s cute, but eerie at the same time. The sky is dark, it is starting to sprinkle. The smell of moist, freshly-cut grass and asphalt greets us when we open the pickup doors and fast-walk to the cover of the building’s long, wrap-around porch. A few people sit on the park-bench-style seats and countryesque rocking chairs along the walls.
Inside the door dozens of eight by ten photographs cover the walls telling of celebrities who have visited the facility; Burt Reynolds, George Lucas, Tom Selleck, Michael Jackson, Luciano Pavarotti… Wait… Luciano Pavarotti? How cool is that?… (However, Michael Jackson oddly fits into the theme of this venue.) Just beyond the gallery is a large, building-wide reception area with couches and chairs.
Glassed shelves display vintage and special Cabbage Patch Kids from the past. American flags accent the floral arrangements on pedestals along the wall leading down to photo-opportunity spots on the end wall. I need to get a picture. This place is looking interesting.
Nurse Debbie is attending to a new Kid while a mom and dad follow their daughter from bassinet to crib, searching for a potential addition to the family. It’s not busy. Today is Monday and a holiday. I estimate there are around fifty people here.
Another person dressed in scrubs tells me that on the previous two days, there was standing room only. She tells me that the place was a mass of newly adopted mothers and grandparents. Today, however, it appears most folks are driving home, just as on most holiday weekends.
Several rooms packed with dolls await a new owner… or… parent… that is. Boy dolls, girl dolls, black-skinned dolls, light-skinned dolls, and those with tones between.
They sit in boxes, cabinets, cases and cribs. Accessories for the new foster-child-parents hang on racks and include shoes, socks shirts, skirts and about anything else needed for a new addition to a family.
I am impressed. I can tell that Roger, a competent businessman, is too. We are both calculating prices of products and the customer flow that is swirling through the faux-hospital and its inventory. On one wall is a large plastic tree. Below it are rows of cabbages that have doll-head centers.
I am told this is the delivery area where a forceps-wielding nurse attends an expecting cabbage and delivers a doll, delighting a crowd of admiring onlookers, kids and supporting adults.
Two men sit silently, working the buttons on their cell phones. No doubt their wives, girlfriends or significant others are wandering the floor with a child or grandchild in search of the perfect adoptee.
“Is this the father’s waiting room?” I ask. One smiles and nods, then continues to click the virtual keys on the phone. The other does not break his concentration to respond.
“This is kind of cool,” I say to the first man.
He looks up, smiles again, and gives a one-word response, “Quite!” His eyes drop back to the phone. His look mimics the expression of a trapped animal, yearning for freedom.
Roger walks up. We both know it is time to go, enough time has passed here… for two old curmudgeons. “This is some operation,” Roger says as we walk toward the door. “Impressive.”
He’s right. It was a lot more than I expected. This will be a venue for my youngest granddaughter. Impressive? Quite!
As we drive away from the Babyland General I glance back over my shoulder.
– – The Cabbage Patch Kids’ Babyland General Hospital is located at 300 N.O.K. Drive • Cleveland, Georgia 30528 in Cleveland, Georgia.
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