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 Glamping…since 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~
Original 1971 Commercial: https://youtu.be/C1RF9vIZ458