I grew up in a last-minute family. Because church didn’t start until 11 am, my mother rarely left the house before 10:50 am, even when she was the choir director, because “we live so close–it just takes a minute to get there.” When friends and relatives were invited over for dinner or for a weekend visit, cleaning up the house began in earnest only when one of us stationed at a window saw THE CAR coming down the street toward
our house and sounded the alarm. Before children, my mother had taught Home Ec and had an idea about what houses should look like when company came. I participated in the last minute frenzy to stuff newspapers under the couch, put piles of things down on the basement steps, and gather up random things that didn’t belong where they were and hide them in drawers.
It was years later that I really understood all this. My mother enjoyed entertaining and doing for others. She loved to cook and bake favorite dishes, especially elaborate desserts. However, she didn’t participate much in mundane activities required to keep things organized. She
preferred playing the piano, embroidering towels, crocheting edges for delicate linen handkerchiefs, trying out yet one more new souffle recipe, making candles, quilting a gift for a new baby and even mending socks and worn-out clothes.
It wouldn’t have been Christmas Eve at our house if Mother hadn’t been up until almost morning with the sewing machine humming. Occasionally the doll clothes or special gifts didn’t get finished, and we unwrapped packages from “Mrs. Santa Claus” that contained partially completed projects and a note asking that we give the whole box back to our mother so that she could get it back to Mrs. Santa Claus. She’d usually had some problem between Thanksgiving and Christmas that set her back a bit.
We were conditioned to receiving these sorts of messages and grew up understanding about how difficult it was for Mrs. Santa Claus to do everything. After all, wasn’t she a woman, and isn’t a woman’s work never done? I bet you think I’m going to seque into telling you about how I was, therefore, so conditioned from an early age to this sort of thing that not getting all the gifts made before the holidays is not really a character defect…..It was, rather, learned behavior.
Well, surprise, surprise. I loved my parents but did not love being late, although for years I followed their same script. Then somewhere between late childhood and now I realized that I could start making (that is, knitting) my gifts way ahead of time, like even in January. And I learned that there was no law forbidding the gradual making of holiday gifts, spreading them out through the entire year, up to the holiday itself. The last minute rush was not mandatory or necessarily desirable. And so I had tried to live my life this way—especially when I got it back after leaving healthcare to knit seriously full time.
This isn’t to suggest that neither of my children ever opened a wrapped gift box to find either needles, yarn and a pattern or a partially completed item. It did happen several times, but it wasn’t my regular practice and plan.
So, it is with some chagrin that I am now working to finish my son’s holiday stockings. They were in the queue and cast on so that they could have been completed in time. However, the whole plan went awry on Thanksgiving Day. We had just enjoyed a wonderful turkey dinner and were all sitting around on comfortable living room furniture in an L-tryptophan-induced blissful state (or whatever comes from enjoying lots of turkey). Imagine my horror to see, when my son put his feet up on an ottoman, gaping holes in the bottoms of both his socks—-and yes, they were (like most of his others) ones that had been made for him by his mother!
He looked very chagrinned when I said something subtle like, “OMIGOD, the bottoms of your socks are gone!” After all, he’d only worn them about 7 years. Smart son that he is, he quickly said, “these are my favorite socks, I’ve worn them every week since you made them for me and I didn’t want to part with them,” which is what I think he thought would have happened had he told me about this obvious problem sooner. Well, was my heart warmed by his love of these socks that I had made with mee own lyttle hands? It told him that I’d fix them and have them back to him before Christmas. He was so moved at my offer that he went into his bedroom and presented me with another “favorite” pair that looked like they had been worn in the Chicago Marathon in lieu of running shoes. I felt even more choked up about his also having so lovingly saved these socks and said that I’d fix them right up, too, before the holidays.
What was I thinking of??? He is over 6 feet and his feet are not small—plus he has a small mountain of socks that I’ve knit over the years which I’ve occasionally seen when visiting after a BIG LAUNDRY–the reason for which I’ve never inquired. I dug through my leftover yarn and stash and found some matching yarn to make two new feet for one pair—-it took a while, but they looked fine. An untrained eye (not any of yours, however) would not have been able to distinguish the new feet from the old heels and legs. Whew. On to pair #2 which was unfortunately made from discontinued yarn, and I had none leftover in the large sock leftovers basket that I stuff under a settee in my living room. Ravelry to the rescue!! I actually found two skeins of the yarn in the stash of a very wonderful Canadian woman who agreed to sell them to me and even to mail them right away to my brother’s house in Illinois where I headed for my mother’s memorial service.
I don’t mean this to be disrespectful and actually believe my mother would have been strongly approving of my doing this while visiting with the relatives, while pausing a few minutes from helping my brothers with various details afterwards and on the return trip home. She was the embodiment of practicality and also so loved things handmade.
The holidays came about two weeks later, and I presented my son with a holiday check and two old pairs of socks with four new feet. He seemed pleased. All my other gifts were completed on time, including these
fingerless mitts I made for my mother that I never got to give to her. Still it bothered me that I hadn’t finished the new holiday socks I intended to make for my son. So, after all the dust from the AARP tv segment chapter cleared away, I began knitting them and knitting them…a few days ago, here’s
what they looked like. I worked each one on two circular needles, sequentially, the ribbing on one, the ribbing on the other, the leg on one, the leg on the other….They are bigger than they look: 10″ from cast on to beginning of heel flap.
Right now I’m working on the gusset decreases on the second sock and estimate that by tomorrow night, if I keep pushing, I’ll have the pair finished….and, therefore, be able to close the Holiday 2009 chapter. Who says knitters aren’t a wee bit compulsive??? I could have just waited to give these to him for some other special event, but they are his holiday 2009 socks and he will have them before this weekend!