Christmas time always brings up toys. Now that I’m a parent, I try to remind myself that finding the perfect toy ought not to be the pressure point I make it out to be…
Some of my favorite and most memorable toys were not ones I asked for. Even if my grandma would sit us down with the Sears Christmas Wish Book and have us play “pick,” by going through it page by page and picking one item we wanted from each page, she didn’t really shop off our list of picks. Instead my cousin Lisa, my sister, and myself each got the same thing — and for many years, this was the latest big ticket item in Barbie’s world. (It wasn’t until I was 16 or so that grandma deviated from this plan, or gave me any one of my picks — a manicure kit signaled the end of childhood.)
So each Christmas Eve, gathered with extended family, we three girls would open our gifts at the same time, simultaneously revealing the Barbie airplane, house, camper, etc. It made for fun with all three of us playing together — after our dads did the some-assembly-required parts. (My poor dad had to put together two of the darn things, while my Uncle Mike only had to do one before he returned to his holiday beer; the year we got Townhouses, the assembly was so intense, that I do believe all boxes remained sealed, were carried home to sit beneath the Christmas tree, and then went directly to reside in attics & basements.)
My favorite bit of Barbie property had to be the Barbie Country Camper.
Not only were the campers most mobile and self-contained, but they had cool features. Features we put to use whenever the neighbor’s cat had a litter of kittens. And as a non-spayed, part-time outdoor cat, she had a litter every spring, giving us plenty of early summers to put tiny kittens into the campers and play with them rather than Babs and friends.
Once those kittens could eat crunchy kitten food, we’d filled the tiny camper sink with kitten chow, stick a lucky kitten or two in the camper, close the door, and extend the table off the back end, achieving a perfect view of kittens chowing down on the chow in the sink.
We watched them eat until they did as kittens do, and fell asleep, nose first in the chow-filled sink. Such sudden and sound sleep made us giggle — and it assured us that we could then drive the kitten-filled camper up and down the block.
When the kitties woke up and had the kitten zoomies, as kittens are want to do, we’d stop the camper and open the kit-tent (yes, we know it’s technically called a pup tent, but we couldn’t find any puppies small enough…) and watch the kittens crawl out of the orange plastic and down the vinyl ramp.
Sometimes momma cat followed the camper full of kittens; sometimes she just watched us return for another one or two of her babies, whereupon we’d start the process all over again.
Whenever I see a small kitten, I still have the urge… But I am without a retro 70’s Country Camper.
Santa, if you’re reading this, if it’s too much to ask… I’d love an old Barbie Country Camper — and a pair of kittens!