Thursday, December 17, 2015

It was the best of times...

Liz Flaherty       
   I have told this story a gazillion times, so I was feeling a little guilty about telling it again, but then I thought...Hmmm, some of my favorite stories are old ones. (Well, I don’t actually think in whole sentences like that, but you get my drift.) But it’s Christmas. My favorite Christmas story is a couple thousand years old. Muriel Jensen’s A Carol Christmas is another one. Mary Balogh’s A Christmas Promise yet another. So here’s mine, for the gazillionth time. Thanks for reading.
          It was the Christmas of 1975. We were four years and three kids into being married and living in our first very own first purchased house.  It came complete with three bedrooms, one bath, and a 30-year mortgage with a 9% interest rate. Yowser! Money was an issue. Time was an issue. Let’s face it—everything was an issue.
          I was making Kari, our little girl, a Holly Hobby dress (to go along with her Holly Hobby dolls,
wallpaper, and pajamas) and my sewing machine—a relic from a bygone era better left unvisited—was sending me right over the edge. Its tension was off, it skipped stitches, the thread broke...and broke...and broke.
          My husband, Duane, turned off the TV (if you knew him, you’d know what a big deal that is—he doesn’t know about the Off switch) and stayed up with me, making me coffee and talking and doing all the gift-wrapping we'd normally have done together, until 2:00 AM, when he wrapped the dress and we stumbled off to bed.
          A very, very few hours later, we watched the kids open their gifts--the dress fit as though it was, well, yes, made for her, and she looked beautiful. My gift came out from under the tree last.
          It was a new sewing machine. White and bright and beautiful. To this day, I don't know how he saved the money to pay for it.
          Forty years later, it still works. It’s Kari’s now. Not that she sews often—being a schoolteacher and the mother of three teenagers puts a damper on that—but she still has the Holly Hobby dress, too. It lies on a vintage wooden ironing board in her living room. Every time we see it, Duane and I smile at each other and I choke up a little and the shared memories slip into the bond created by being married 40-some years. Strengthening it, helping to keep it a warm and happy place for us.
          We live in a different house now and those three kids and their spouses have seven of their own. It’s a different time. I haven’t seen 2:00 AM on Christmas morning for a good many years (nor do I miss it), but the memory of that night in 1975 never ages.
          Merry Christmas, everyone. I hope it is a blessed and Heartwarming time for you.


Helen DePrima


Christmas for me as a child was an oddly fragmented celebration: Christmas Eve with my father and his extended family followed by midnight Mass with my aunt and uncle and five cousins next door to my grandparents’ house where I lived. O Holy Night always ended the service, the final high notes achingly pure and lovely, the perfect transition between the religious observation and the rowdy breakfast feast served at two in the morning, an exotic novelty itself for a child. In the morning I returned to my grandparents’ house for another round of presents and the big Christmas dinner, generally starring a ham adorned with pineapple rings and maraschino cherries.


The real high point of Christmas for me wasn’t receiving presents but rather shopping for them. My
father always gave me fifty dollars to buy gifts for everyone in the family, a princely amount until divided among three aunts, five cousins, my grandparents and my father. The delicious tension of choosing for my aunts – scarves or gloves – for my cousins ranging in age from six to eighteen, for my grandparents who needed or wanted nothing but exclaimed in delight over everything I bought them, and for my father, the most difficult of all. I still treasure one gift I gave my grandmother: a pink teapot that called to me from the window of Hammer’s Hardware in St. Matthews, Kentucky where I grew up. I use it now to hold coins and still recall the thrill of spiriting it home and hiding it in my aunt’s closet to surprise my grandmother with it on Christmas morning.

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28 comments:

  1. I love Christmas memories. Thanks for sharing yours :)
    BTW Liz, when I was a young, I remember buying my father (a veteran of two wars) a Holly Hobby dress shirt. It wasn't until years later that I realized he never wore it. LOL, I still remember how cool I thought it was.

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  2. As Pamela said, thank you for sharing your stories. Liz, I still have the silly grin on my face that your story put on it! :-)

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    1. Thanks, Kate. It still affects me the same way. To add to this story, we went shopping last night and Duane bought me a travel sewing machine for Christmas. It's for when I sew up at the school or have sewing days with Extension Homemakers. It was 1975 all over again. :-)

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  3. What wonderful Christmas stories – and having that husband who kept your new sewing machine a secret. What if he had decided to avoid all that suffering and given it to you when you could have really used it? But then you wouldn’t have had that wonderful experience to treasure.

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    1. He's said that, too, but the truth is, I would have had to learn to use it (it was a lot more in-depth than what I'd had) and there wasn't time for that!

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  5. What great stories, ladies. Thank you for sharing your Christmas memories. Liz, I loved my Holly Hobby doll. She went everywhere with me. I'm with you, Helen, shopping for the gifts is the best part.

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    1. I wish Kari had kept hers, but I'm not sure there was enough left to keep. :-) I love Helen's teapot!

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  6. Sewing machine stories remind me not of Christmas but of an Easter dress I made for my daughter when she was about six. I was working as the charge nurse at a nursing home for the night before Easter and was finishing the dress by hand between meds and vital signs. The light at the nurses' station wasn't wonderful and I set in half the shirt wrong side out. It didn't look dramatically wrong so I left it as a reminder of working through the wee hours to have it ready for church on Easter morning.

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  7. Thank you for sharing your Christmas memories with us! Liz - that is the sweetest thing I have heard in a long time! I used to have that Holly Hobby picture in my room and had a dress very similar (although I don't think my mom stayed up until the wee hours sewing it herself!) And I am just like you, Helen. My favorite thing about Christmas is finding that perfect gift for the people I love. Happy holidays to both of you!

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    1. It's so great when it happens that way! I got Duane a golf club one year--a driver--and didn't give it to him till everything else was opened. I asked him to get that piece of paper that was "sticking out from under the couch" and that was it. Fun times.

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  8. Ladies, thank you for making my morning. Liz, for some reason your story choked me up a bit. I think it's the obvious pure love from your husband staying up with you and giving you moral support. My husband is this way, too. Staying up with me when I have a deadline or something else pressing "project." And the fact that your daughter obviously cherished the dress... Helen, what a fun job that would have been to shop for everyone! And a bit of pressure, too. Because you always want to give the people you love something they will love! Hope you make some more wonderful memories this Christmas!

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    1. Thanks, Carol. The gift was in the staying up with me--I don't think he understood that then, but he does now.

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  9. Beautiful stories, ladies. And Liz, why is it that the tension on a sewing machine can drive a woman to tears? I was thinking about buying a new one this year, but my mom (age 90 and nearly blind) said she'd give me hers (a $2000 model from some foreign land she special ordered 20 years ago). Now, granted. She said she'd give me hers when she's done with it (reminder: she's nearly blind, but still sewing).

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    1. All this talk about sewing machines makes me remember watching my grandmother make dresses for me on her 1898 treadle-powered Singer. Her best friend left it to her complete with instruction booklet, tool kit, and tiny oil can. I use an electric Singer now, of course, but in my mind I still hear the the rhythmic whir of the belt on the old machine as my grandmother turned out beautiful pinafores and party dresses for me.

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    2. My daughter-in-law's grandmother has macular degeneration and still sews, too--and does it better than I do even though she can hardly see. It's a true blessing to her, though. And, yes, tension's definitely a good word for it, because it CAN drive you to tears.

      I learned on a treadle machine, too, and I still have it. But I never, never feel tempted to open it up again. :-)

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  10. Liz and Helen! Another wonderful start to my day. What a wonderful gift from your husband - the staying up with you and making you coffee, as well as the sewing machine! Ron doesn't always understand me, but he's always there - and that's the magic of love - and faith, I guess - believing in what you don't understand. (And thanks for the Carol Christmas praise!) Helen! I can imagine tea and cookies with that teapot in the middle of the table. Can I come over? Great post, Ladies. Thanks for the smiles.

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    1. Oh, you're right--it's that believing what you don't understand. I love Ron's and your stories!

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  11. Thanks for joining us, Muriel. It's good to take a little break during the holiday bustle to share a few minutes with friends. Have a wonderful Christmas.

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  12. Thanks for sharing your wonderful Christmas memories. Liz, I can relate to the frustration of an uncooperative sewing machine and a deadline. Helen, love the teapot. I can imagine how delighted your grandmother must have been. Merry Christmas.

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    1. Thanks, Beth! I've been thinking about that teapot ever since I saw the picture of Helen's. It's the perfect thing to have, isn't it?

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  13. Thank you for these very special stories. I, too, share all sorts of seeing marine Christmas adventures thiug nothing as poignant as yours, Liz. And the pink teapot!! We all need one , don't we??? God bless you both.

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    1. I think a pink teapot would fill a lot of wells some days! Merry Christmas, Catherine.

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