Everything Old is New Again…🎄

A few Christmases ago I had endured a particularly hard year, and the burdens rather than the joys of the season weighed me down.

I wasn’t feeling the Christmas spirit at all as I plodded through the have-to’s …

(I was channeling more Grinch than Giver…)

I just wanted everything to be magically done and for everyone to be happy and have a good holiday. I would be happy when this holiday season was behind me.

Part of my angst was due to my expectations. This particular year, my whole family couldn’t be together.

That meant no little grand-kiddos to watch Christmas movies, frost cut-out sugar cookies, or share their joy–and so I was feeling quite joyless and frankly sorry for myself.

One day as I was box-checking by doing some necessary Christmas shopping, I rounded a corner to find an end-cap bursting with a glorious Barbie display.

Barbie Dream Campers!

Immediately my mind flashed back 40 some-odd years to my own Barbie camper and the countless hours of fun…off-roading Barbie in the pasture, digging swimming holes for her to swim in, and packing her pals Ken, Alan, Stacey, and sister Skipper into the back (no seatbelts required) for hours of indoor-outdoor adventures!

Barbie’s new camper was pink-on-pink and full of all the bells and whistles–but it couldn’t hold a candle to my Barbie Country Camper from the 70’s. First of all, mine was bright yellow and orange with a groovy rainbow/cloud motif on the side. Inside it had a kitchenette and came complete with a retractable picnic table, sleeping bags, camp stools, and an orange fold-out vinyl tent. Other camp accessories (in true Barbie fashion) were sold separately.

On the original commercial Ken could be seen driving the camper–with Barbie in the passenger seat. But Ken never drove the camper in my Barbie-world. This was a Barbie-Bago all the way- and she was an independent woman living the dream and traveling the countryside. (Which was really the beginning of Glampingsince it was Barbie and all. No roughing it–fashion and luxury all the way!)

I snapped out of my mental sidebar, and called my daughter over to show her the latest Barbie Camper and reminisce. (Lucky her!)

As silly as it seems, I felt a little better about Christmas after seeing that end-cap full of Barbie campers–hoping that even in this digital age it would make some other kid as happy as it had made me.

Just like Ralphie and his Daisy Red Ryder, I was sure it was best gift I could or would ever receive.

Christmas came and presents were opened, brunch was yummy, and it was festive despite my glum predictions.

Things were winding down and my daughter handed me a big box. Thinking it was an appliance of some sort, I slowly tore off just the corner of the paper.

No words were visible–just a glimpse of the box sparked a recognition in me.

(I know you are way ahead of me on this…)

Embarrassingly, tears began to flow. I had never cried over a present before.

My grown-up kids were encouraging me to rip off the remaining wrap. But all I could do is sit and blub.

My adult children had bought their 50-something mother (you guessed it!) A Barbie Camper! And for the first time since childhood I felt that feeling. That feeling that you only feel as a child waiting for Christmas–anticipating that one particular gift. Or receiving that unexpected gift when you just knew it was not possible.

As I tore off the remaining wrap, it was as if I were receiving my Barbie Camper for the very first time. Wonderful, joyful feelings flooded over me just from seeing that tiny corner of the big box.

Because I knew that box.

My kids hadn’t bought me the end-cap, pink-on-pink Barbie camper from the store.

They had bought me the original 1971 Barbie Country Camper of my childhood.

(Didn’t see that one coming did you?–Me neither!)

And a Camp Barbie. And a Camp Skipper. And little books. And the paper-dolls. And the camp accessories.

All from back in the day thanks to the magic that is the internet. I was overwhelmed with shock and childlike happiness–and humbled by the love and sacrifice that gift showed.

Somehow, in the hustle and bustle of buying, wrapping, gifting, baking, erranding and most regrettably-Grinch-ing,

I had lost myself.

As memories flooded back of what it felt like way back then

(only it was happening now)…

like the Grinch I could feel my heart expanding.

Remember the part where I said the Barbie Camper I received in the early 70’s was the best gift I would ever receive?

Well I was wrong.

It was way better the second time–40+ years later. Because the gift restored to me wasn’t just a camper. It was sentiment.

Hopes. Girlhood Dreams. Memories

Emotions long in the Barbie Country Camper’s rear-view mirror. Part of my childhood-past. That year a thoughtful gift made everything “old” / “new” again.

And I’m not talking about a vintage Barbie camper.

I was new. I felt restored!

So fast forward to this year… and you’ll never guess what I bought for my little granddaughter! Apparently Barbie now has a 6 year-old sister named Chelsea, and the latest from the Barbie line? A mini-camper of her very own-complete with camping gear and a puppy.

You’ve got to hand it to Barbie. She may have turned 60 this year, but she’s timeless.

& If there’s one thing I’ve learned…

the best gifts in life ALWAYS are.


~Laughter is timeless,

Imagination has no age,

Dreams are forever~

~Walt Disney~

Original 1971 Commercial: https://youtu.be/C1RF9vIZ458

A Christmas Snapshot…1992



It’s the stuff of Christmas! Part excitement/part wonder- with a good dose of anxiety mixed in. (Naughty? Nice? Did Santa see that?)

Back in the day, (yeah, we’re going there again…) there used to be a ketchup commercial where the glass-bottled ketchup was tilted precariously above a tasty burger. During the duration of the commercial, everyone waited for the first drop of ketchup to slowly plop out, while Carly Simon sang her famous tune Anticipation. And I do mean s-l-o-w-l-y… If you’ve ever used ketchup from a glass bottle (which is way cooler than its more convenient cousin, ketchup in a plastic container) then you know the secret why they invented the plastic squeeze bottle in the first place!

Glass may be retro-cool, but that ketchup took forever! Anticipation, indeed. After that commercial, any time we had to wait-or make someone else wait, (always more fun!) we would sing “Anticipation,” as a joke.anticipation-7

Anticipation is more than just waiting, it is defined as “a feeling of excitement about something that is going to happen, or the act of looking forward.” Merriam Webster online also offers up a second definition, “the use of money before it is available.” I had never heard that particular definition before, but unfortunately, I have lived it!

So begins the tale of Christmas, anticipation, & me-or rather, us.

Once upon a time our little family of five moved from Chicago to Pennsylvania. Because we were young and crazy, we moved when I was nine months pregnant, and our fourth baby came a few weeks later on December 5th.  It was a busy time. We were financially strapped, my husband was learning his new job, we had one car, and cherry on top-Pennsylvania seemed to miss the snow day and slid right into a snow year! Oh, and Christmas was coming with all that entails, there is that. Plus we were on one side of the country, and our family was way out west.  We were feeling overwhelmed and wondering if we had made the right decision. Although joyful, those early years can be rough.

But help was on the horizon. That particular year, my mom surprised us by calling and telling us she was going to be making our Christmas “extra special” that year. She and my dad knew it had been a transitional time, and said not to count on other years being as special, but that this year’s gift was a one-time thing.

Oh, were we excited! And so, with visions of a big fat check with more than one zero, we anticipated the holiday with glee!


(& Receiving!)

Finally, after all the challenges of the past few months, we would be able to sit back, relax, and enjoy the holidays. We ticked off the days advent-style…stringing popcorn and cranberries, making ginger men, cutting down the tree, sipping hot cocoa, and sledding. We decorated, baked, wrapped, and anticipated Santa’s arrival and my parent’s generosity. I don’t know who was more excited for Christmas to come that year-the kiddos or us!

Oh yes, Christmas Cheer was alive and well in the Williamson household!elf

(Or you could skip the carols & give some Christmas Cash!

That spreads Christmas cheer too, I hear!)

 ‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all I could think was… Would it really be bad form to get up before the little people in our household? We concluded it would definitely be very Grinchy to do that, so we waited them out. Eventually, we heard them stirring.


Christmas morning had finally come!

We scrambled out of bed, shoved past our children on the stairs, rushed the Christmas tree, and tore into the colorful wrapping paper…knowing smiles on our faces. Imagine our surprise when out spilled a framed 8 x 10 of my folks, then a couple of 5 x 7’s and then…you guessed it…wallets! Wait!  What was this?  Photos? And more photos?  What about the Christmas “Special Surprise?” The “once in a blue moon” gifting? Maybe it’s in the card-but no…(This was turning out to be a jelly-of-the-month club kick-in-the-pants for sure).


 After our initial shock and awe, we noticed that our kids saw something in those pictures that we in our greed had missed. They were busy oohing and ahhing over the pictures, “Look it’s Grandma and Grandpa!”  We noticed it was a “posed” picture, and my parents had never, ever taken a picture together like that. At least not since 1958…and that was for their wedding picture.  Their Christmas Eve wedding picture. Yup, they were married on Christmas Eve same as my grandparents. I felt awful, and it wasn’t just the fudge with hot chocolate chaser I’d downed that made my tummy lurch. I was glad Santa had already visited or I would have surely had enough coal to fuel my winter.

 They had gotten professional pictures done to commemorate a special anniversary, and to help the grandkids that lived so far away from them remember.

Arghh…I felt so selfish. What a scrooge I was!

 I’m ashamed to say it took us longer than it should have to share completely in the sweet enthusiasm our little children displayed over those pictures.

 Oh, and speaking of displays…after that Christmas we had framed pictures on our bookcases, askew on our end tables, 2 x 3’s by each kids bed, and showcased in our wallets. It felt some days as if their eyes were staring at us accusingly from the frames.

The funny thing was, it really was the best gift ever, because we really enjoyed the holiday season to it’s fullest that year.

 Since we perceived the financial pressure to be off, our focus leading up to Christmas was entirely on our little family, and celebrating each day.

We spent quality time doing and being and not hustling and bustling.

A Charlie Brown Christmas


We never did fess up our dashed expectations to our parents, (although we did ask the sibs what they got-just out of curiosity, of course), and I’m still ashamed to admit I was so mercenary about anticipating Christmas cash. That year we learned an important lesson; that “special” gifts aren’t about $$$, and that we had interpreted their idea of “extra special” to fit what we thought would be “special.”  We still laugh about that memory and call it the gift that keeps on giving.

And as for me?

I decided right then to  separate the expectation part from the something is going to happen part of anticipation.

My four young kiddos taught me a treasured lesson that year.

Christmas magic is indeed found in the little snapshots.