Surrounded by a sea of sleeping bags, hopped up on sugary treats, a gym full of giggling girl guides is conjuring yuletide crafts along with general holiday mayhem.
Christmas Capers 1990.
My sister LouAnne, Thorold’s illustrious Girl Guide leader at the time, had enlisted my niece Judy and me to “help.” Oh, and to “set a good example.”
You’d think she would’ve learned from our summer camp leaving-the-tent-flap-open-in-a-downpour fiasco, when Judy and I were disgraced; banished to the kitchen barracks, forced to sleep on the cold, hard floor at the dreaded Camp Kienuka. (Every piece of clothing and other item we’d brought remained soaked for the entire weekend).
We did manage to redeem ourselves slightly by comforting the girl who barfed in her tent—and like us, was also banished, by her tent-mates, in the middle of the night. Judy, who’d spent many nights at our house, barfing in LouAnne’s bed in her youth, was the perfect person to come to the barfer’s aid.
Girl Guide training 101: at camp, there’s always, always at least one barfer.
To our credit, I don’t recall us doing anything un-leader-like at the Christmas camp.
In fact, we were having lots of fun helping what seemed like hundreds of girls attach candy cane windows and licorice doors onto their gingerbread houses with gooey icing, when catastrophe struck.
Barbie H’s gingerbread house fell on the floor.
No problem. This is what we’d been trained for.
Our sweet-toothed Swat team swooped in and saved the day by building a new candy house.
After “sleeping” in our sleeping bags, we awoke, ready for another day of Christmas Capers, when shouts of pandemonium pierced the gymnasium.
Barbie’s brand new gingerbread house had vanished.
Despite our top sleuthing tactics, and no matter how much guilt LouAnne tried to heap on them, not a single one was saying what had happened to the mini house.
Naturally, there was a barfer, and she became our prime suspect, till we remembered our training: there’s always, always at least one barfer.
Fast forward to November, 2019: Bob and I were covering an event for the News at the TCAG, where volunteers were packaging up holiday kits for the homeless.
Ringleader James Symons turned to this year’s top volunteer, who collected the most items for the homeless, and introduced her as Barb H.
“Were you a Thorold Girl Guide?” I felt compelled to ask her.
“Yeeees,” she said, smiling, and we both burst out laughing, reminiscing about the fateful gingerbread house incident from 19 years ago.
She could be bitter, hide herself up on a hill and hate Christmas like the Grinch--who, you may recall, retreated to Mount Crumpet after being traumatized by bullies who taunted his shaving techniques.
But no, not Barbie.
While she admitted she’s still not a fan of gingerbread houses, Barb is working two jobs (ironically, one is selling houses) and still finding time to help her community, in a caring, impactful way.
And yes, I know the holiday pressure to buy everyone the perfect gift and prepare perfect meals, all while trying not to pack on an extra 10 pounds and blow the entire year’s budget, can bring out the barfer in all of us.
But let’s not be bitter.
When things fall through, or get taken away from us, let’s be like Barbie.
I find that being a bit delusional also helps this time of year. As an astute young coworker of mine pointed out, sweets don’t contain calories during the month of December. Also, we decided, if you bookend your holiday binging with celery sticks—before and after—the calories from whatever you ate in between do not count.
And in the true spirit of Christmas, I implore the gingerbread house stealer from Christmas Capers camp 1990 to come clean, and confess. At the very least, you owe Barbie a brand new candy bungalow.
Merry Christmas, Thorold!