One day when I got off the bus in kindergarten, my mom was waiting for me in the car with my brother strapped into his car seat. It was March of 1983 and we had been in Georgia for about a month at that time. We didn’t know it yet, but we were about to have our very first experience with winter weather as it’s known in Georgia.
My dad was in Texas for work that week and at that time we only had one car. Dad usually took our car to his office when he was in town, so when he was out of town and Mom had access to the car, she would run as many errands as she could.
I’m not sure what our main purpose was for going to the mall that day. Maybe it was to get some spring clothes because it was already March. Any winter clothes would already have been sold out and we still had our heavy winter coats from Chicago anyway.
I loved being in the car as a child. As a passenger, I could read the signs, look at the buildings, and people watch. Since Georgia was still so new to us, it was always exciting to go somewhere other than school, church, and the local grocery store.
Since Cumberland was the Big Mall for our area at that time, all of the big stores were in the mall and the nearby strip malls. Of course, the most important stores to young children were our local toy stores. Not only was there a Toys R Us close to Cumberland Mall, there was also a Lionel Playworld within the radius.
Inside the mall, there were two toy stores. The one on the top floor was Kaybee and the one on the bottom was either Child World or Circus World. That day, we went to Kaybee Toys.
If we went to the toy store, it was always after we accomplished whatever our main goal for the shopping trip was. I didn’t mind shopping for clothes, but my brother hated it, so a trip to the toy store was a nice carrot for him and a great bonus for me.
Sometimes I would get an actual doll, other times, I would get an outfit or accessory pack for a doll. In those days, I did have a few Barbies, but my main focus for toys was still the scented sweetie Strawberry Shortcake and her friends.
It’s always been difficult for me to choose just one thing, be it with food items, books, music groups/artists, or other intellectual property. As exciting as it is to have a lot of options to choose from, it can also be overwhelming.
I don’t remember which other Strawberry Shortcake characters were available at Kaybee that day, so I have no idea why I chose Raspberry Tart and Rhubarb. Maybe she was only one on the store shelf I didn’t already have at home.
I don’t remember which brand of die-cast car my brother got either. It was probably a Hot Wheel, because that was his default at that time as much as Strawberry Shortcake and her friends were for me.
Mom told me that we wanted to go to the pet store next to look at the puppies and the fish. The puppies were cute and the fish were usually calming. We didn’t know then what we found out later about those stores.
However, that was not a day where we had time to watch the animals. We had to leave the mall right after we left the toy store that day because the flurries arrived. Panic was setting in among the locals. We were about to find out why no one leaves their house in the South during certain weather conditions.
In Georgia, winter weather has some very complicated components. We have to have certain components in place for the entire state to shut down, but when everything has shut down, you want to be safe at home. The absolute last place you want to be during such events is out on the roads.
What starts with flurries can grow into larger flakes in the blink of an eye. Even though my mom was used to driving in snow in Chicago, we were in a much less familiar area. Mom took a couple wrong turns and we found ourselves in three different counties that day. We also still had Chicago plates on our car, so we learned a surprising lesson about “Southern Hospitality” that day. Apparently, for some Southerners, that was only meant to be extended to other Southerners.
We did (somehow) find our way home that day. I probably spent part of that car ride home daydreaming, but I’m not sure if I was daydreaming about hosting a reunion of my Berryland friends with Raspberry Tart or about playing in the snow. I was apparently also getting hungry because Mom told me I was asking for a snack.
When I woke up the next morning, Mom got me ready to go to school. Then our neighbor from across the street (my future Girl Scout leader Susan) called. Susan told Mom that the schools were closed. Mom said Susan asked her if she was going to let us go out to play in the snow. Mom said she wasn’t because we both had colds and there wasn’t very much snow outside to really do anything with.
I asked Mom if my brother and I were disappointed because it wasn’t as much snow as we were used to having in Chicago. There are pictures of us at the house in Oak Lawn standing next to piles of snow that were either as tall as us or taller. In Georgia, we’re lucky when the snow comes up to our ankle.
Aside from the snowstorm, the other memorable thing about Raspberry Tart was she may have been my third to last or second to last Strawberry Shortcake acquisition from the original line.
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