Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Stole That Grinched Christmas

August was generally the month that I would start on my Christmas projects. I made most of the gifts I gave. Then there were the tree ornaments, additions to the village that I had created, wreaths, pine cone baskets with lights and baubles, and last but certainly not least, the new stockings to be needle pointed/cross stitched.

I was a Christmas junkie of long standing. The glitz, the glitter, the lights, the gift sharing, the family, the spirit, I loved it all. I blossomed at Christmas. I have 30+ boxes of Christmas 'stuff' in the garage, most of which I made myself.

My physical condition tempered some of the enthusiasm. Losing three members of my family quieted some of the joy. My grandchildren becoming blase teenagers subdued some of the wonder. I have officially become a reformed junkie. So, like Scrooge, this Christmas season I am going to visit Christmas backwards. I am going to re-create my Christmas Past.

This memory is of My Most Embarrassing Christmas:

I was young. I was married. I was full of energy and enthusiasm. I baked cookies, made candy and fruitcake, and decorated my house in what was to eventually become called Sandy's Wonderland. My Christmas tree had lights and decorations from trunk to tip on every limb. Christmas was my season. I loved every minute of the month of December.

It was the start of a tradition ... open house on Christmas Eve. Invitations were issued to my husband's co-workers, my college friends, and all family members.

I cooked and planned for weeks. The little house that we lived in was bustling with Christmas smells and spirit. My husband was as excited as I was. He had done something for me that had him so excited he was nearly bursting with the need to tell me. In fact, it was so unique that several family members had asked to be included in the cost of the purchase of the gift. By accepting their offers my husband had been able to purchase something way beyond what he had originally planned. He fairly danced with the anticipation of giving it to me. All in all Christmas was shaping up to be everything that I could possibly hope for.

For a young wife hosting a large party it couldn't have been a happier time. Christmas Eve was an astounding success. Everyone that had been invited came. Our decorated house brimmed over with laughter and fun.

Almost every woman that walked through my door had on a fur stole. It was part of the fashion statement of the time. I laid more fur on my bed that night then I have ever seen since.

My mother's sister, a tall, commanding woman, had put on her stole before leaving. She had twirled and half danced as she had shown my mother all sides and aspects of her new wardrobe addition. She was a stylish woman and she was very proud of the deep brown color.

After everyone had left, my immediate family and I were sitting in the living room with our shoes off and our cups of coffee when my mother said, "Sandy, wasn't June's stole beautiful?"

So, without any reservations I told my family exactly how I felt about fur stoles. I have always intensely disliked them. I hate the idea that an animal has been bred specifically so a woman can wear some fur around her shoulders. I hate the look of them. They cut a woman in half. A woman with large shoulders looks broader. A woman with big hips looks hippier. It's just my own personal, quiet dislike. I had never been vocal about my dislike before. But my mother asked and I had answered.

The room became so quiet you could have heard a pin drop. The look of undisguised surprise and sadness confused me. Why were they all so upset about my personal feelings about stoles? They each had their own personal dress dislikes. Why were they so upset at me vocalizing mine?

And then it hit me. "Did the group of you pool your money and buy me a fur stole for Christmas."


I have never been that embarrassed in a family situation before or since. They had been so pleased with themselves, so excited with what they had done. And I had just poured ice water on one of their prime Christmas expectations. I felt horrible.

I tried to apologize. They tried to apologize. They went and got the box and opened it and showed me their prize. It was a lovely shade of gray ... a color I probably would have chosen if I had liked stoles.

We worked hard to get past the snafu, but it put a definite damper on my cheerfulness. It rested like a stone in my stomach for the rest of the holidays.

I tried to wear it once. I thought that maybe I could heal the humiliation I felt at the disappointment I had caused the people I loved. But I was so uncomfortable with it on my shoulders and they were so uncomfortable knowing how uneasy I was that the evening had a damper on it.

I eventually asked if they would be hurt if I gave it to my sister. She didn't share my feelings about stoles. She was delighted to have it and my family was happy to see someone they loved wear it. So it worked out happily in the end.

And I learned a very valuable lesson. Never again, during the Christmas season, did I honestly answer any leading questions that my mother might ask.

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