By Adam Cecil
In Cleveland, Georgia, there is a Magic Crystal Tree. Beneath the Magic Crystal Tree, there is a giant cabbage patch named Mother Cabbage. And seven days a week, barring major holidays, you and your family can visit Mother Cabbage and watch her give birth to Cabbage Patch Kids. And if you can’t make your way to Georgia, you can experience the magic vicariously on Instagram.
This is Babyland General, a “hospital” where Cabbage Patch Kids dolls are both metaphorically and literally born. Staff members are dressed as nurses and doctors, and even use a pelvimeter — a real gynecological tool — to make sure Mother Cabbage is dilated. (Dilated... where? Unfortunately, the biological complexities of Mother Cabbage are understudied and remain largely a mystery to scientists.)
In addition to Mother Cabbage, there is a vast company store, full of the classic "toy" dolls you likely associate with the Cabbage Patch Kids brand ($10-$70), slightly more premium "exclusive babies," which you can only get at Babyland or online ($69.99-$79.99), and the “hand-stitched originals” created by local artists (starting at $250). There's also a grand ballroom, available to rent for family reunions, weddings, and other special occasions.
Despite the haunting concept at the center of Babyland General (a cabbage patch that gives birth to seemingly human children), it has an average rating of 4.4 stars on Google Maps. Love for Babyland seems to be largely driven by nostalgia — folks who were kids during the height of Cabbage Patch Kids mania in the '80s and are now sharing their love with their own children. In a way, taking your kid to Babyland General is no different than taking them to Disney World, except I don't think the Tree of Life gives birth.
I’ve never been to Babyland General, despite very much wanting to experience the thrill of hearing “Mother Cabbage is in labor!” through a store-wide sound system. Instead, I’ve primarily experienced the store through its official Instagram account, @cabbagepatchkidsdelivery. With approximately 15,000 followers, Babyland's account is only 10,000 followers behind the official account for the entire Cabbage Patch Kids brand.
There is a charming erraticism to the Babyland General account—perhaps not surprising given that the entire institution is centered around the reproductive cycle of a single cabbage-based being—and it seems clear to me that there are no dedicated social media professionals associated with it. If it wasn’t connected to a line of dolls that once inspired violent altercations across the country, you might think it was just an account for a local toy store, or an obsessed doll collector.
There is little professional photography or graphic design. Instead, the primary type of posts are short videos of various dolls from the store. The camera moves slowly in, and then out, or the other way around. There's no particular logic to what the anonymous cameraperson is trying to show you—no 360 degree views, no fine details of the craftsmanship, and no explanation of how a vegetable garden gives birth to live young. There was recently a streak of photos of hand-stitched originals, all shot against sterile white backgrounds, that seem like an attempt to professionalize the timeline but come off like a brochure at an estate sale. My favorite moment on the timeline came last September, when the account posted the same photo album three times in a row:
But the real joy of the account is in the captions. Whoever runs this account is truly, authentically, a doll person. While some captions are from the point of view of an anonymous employee at Babyland, the best are written as though the dolls themselves are talking to you, and in many cases, pleading with you to be adopted.
You may have noticed the URLs — almost every single caption features at least one hyperlink, which any semi-professional social media manager or adult below the age of 35 would know is not clickable. Many captions also feature a reminder that the store closes at 6 PM—useful information, but not necessarily something that needs to be in an Instagram caption.
Another fun detail: Babyland General only follows seven other accounts, mostly parenting accounts and, of course, the official @cbkusa account, but also the phone case maker Incase for some reason—perhaps their products are born as well?
It seems clear to me that the Babyland General account is the work of one person, or a core group of senior employees with incredible synergy on a misguided aesthetic. (I did try messaging them to ask, “Hey, is this, like, on purpose?” and have yet to receive a response. I’m guessing that, like T-Pain, they do not know about the folder for message requests.) I think the tone of the account can largely be attributed to the fact that Babyland General exists to appeal to the diehard adult fans, the kind of people who wouldn’t bat an eyelash at spending $70 or even $250 on a doll. It’s a different audience than the larger brand, which is largely focused on selling cheaper plastic toys to actual children. @cbkusa might be for Cabbageheads, but @cabbagepatchkidsdelivery is for the cultists, the Acolytes of Mother Cabbage.
While I find all of these dolls incredibly creepy, and the concept of a cabbage patch that gives live birth to be somewhat disturbing, I have grown fascinated by the community around Cabbage Patch Kids. On Google Maps, many reviews of Babyland General talk about how magical it was to be at Babyland, how it transported the reviewer back to their childhoods, how much their own children fell in love with the dolls and the process of adopting their very own Cabbage Patch Kid (who, again, I must stress, all come from the presumably asexually reproducing organism Mother Cabbage).
On Instagram, the comments are similarly full of people saying how cute the dolls are, how much they love them, and their happy memories at Babyland General. “My boyfriend will take me in April for my 50th birthday,” one comment from a few months ago reads. “I [sic] never been there. Always wanted to go. I didn’t even know it was still open.” While I believe myself far removed from these people who find the dolls cute, who want to take them home with them and care for them as real children, I, too, am under the spell of Mother Cabbage. I hope that someday I’ll be able to make the pilgrimage to see her, before the fever dream is over. I promise to tag @cabbagepatchkidsdelivery in every photo.