Wednesday, December 10, 2008

My Christmas sweater


I pulled my Christmas sweater out last week. About 5 years ago I gave away all Christmas sweaters, vests, and blouses with the thought that they were becoming a sort of "overdone" thing. When I'd bought them they'd seemed festive and pretty. Unfortunately I wasn't the only one who thought that way and they seemed to crop up on every other person walking down the street so I tired of the whole phenomenon. But then, two Christmases ago my thinking changed again.
That was the year my mother was dying of cancer. She was given 2 to 6 months to live when she was diagnosed in July of '06, but she was determined to shop for everyone that Christmas and kept asking me for ideas: should she get gift certificates? where would everyone like to shop?, etc. Then the Lands' End catalog arrived in the mail with their Christmas sweaters and I asked her what she thought and an idea was hatched. She bought 41 matching red and white sweaters from size 6 months to XXXL. On Christmas morning she held them until everyone was at her house and then had everyone open at once. The living room became a sea of red and white as everyone pulled their sweaters from the boxes. Suddenly we were united in a unique way. We all put them on - including her because I bought her one too - and we walked out to the back yard where a friend had been pre-booked to snap a photo - the same photo we all have in an extra large format now, hanging in our homes. It was a Christmas I'll never forget.

Mom died two weeks later. The Christmas sweaters became a touchstone for us as we worked our way through the grief - some of her grandchildren wore them throughout the visiting hours and funeral. I still have little sticky notes in my home office with her handwriting on them: "Duane - L; Dan - XL; Kim - M" which she handed to me in the weeks leading up to the holiday, suddenly remembering a boyfriend or girlfriend that she wanted to include. I can't bring myself to throw them out.

My Christmas sweater will never be thrown away. It may very well be in tatters one day but my children are going to have to deal with this one...

5 comments:

Petra said...

This was a great gift, a great idea. All the people wearing the same sweater... It looks amazingly in the photograph and I believe that those Christmas were unforgettable indeed. Moreover, the fact that your mather died two weeks later makes that even more special. My father died a year ago, on the 5th December and a few days before he died, he had given me some money to buy Christmas presents for me and my husband. When he died, we decided to buy something "special" in memory of him. I chose a picture with two drawn colourful dogs, the picture looks very funny. I love it and although my father has never seen it and although I don't know whether he would like it, it is a special gift for me. It is also a Christmas present I will never forget.

Downhook said...

Please accept my sincerest sympathy on the loss of your father. I know how difficult it is to say goodbye to someone special - and the holidays are especially difficult. There is a hole in my life that will never be filled.

Kim B. said...

Aww! Even though Tyler and I were engaged at the time, opening up my gift to find that sweater made me want to cry...I was really part of the family!

I have my Mom's address book...I already have all the addresses in my own and all the phone numbers have long since been placed into both my home phone and cell phone. But there's just something about seeing her handwriting that makes that simple book with the ugly flowers completely impossible to throw away. Mine and Tyler's kids are going to find that book a very long time from now and probably think their mom was crazy...I am completely at peace with that :)

Karen said...

Those sweaters have a meaning some people will never understand. When I wear it I am touching mom. Best gift ever. I miss her so much and it just makes me feel good when I see that sweater pop up on any one of us.

Downhook said...

I agree with both of you!

Kim, I have many things of Mom's with her handwriting that I cannot bear to throw away so I know just what you mean. Occasioanlly I'll see something that I think she wrote and then realize it's my own handwriting I am looking at, which is also touching! You and I will both be missing our moms this Christmas. I think about you so often these days and how hard this is for you. Her address book will indeed be with you forever...unless your husband throws it out thinking its not important like someone I know did once....but that's another blog for another day!

And Karen-everytime I see one of the sweaters on anyone it makes me smile. Amazing memories - and like you said - a hug from Mom...