There comes a time in every celebrant’s life when she (or he) must answer the call, “Bloody Mary or champagne?” For this occasion, I’ll say, “Dalton’s Bloody Mary!” One, because it says Christmas morning; two, it’s heavy on a favorite – horseradish; and three, he (D) has been with me every stitch of the way.
For the sake of documentation, I’ll mention that the object of my commemoratory adoration took hold in an Unmerry Christmas sort of way. As a third grader, the joy of hearing Andy Williams’s first Christmas Album was surpassed only by watching my mother glue sparkly thingamabobs in my name on a felt shaped sock.
As it turned out, felt was not the most enduring material for leaky fruit, tiny fist research or even as a container for candy which when sampled is expectorated. But in the end, it was my very own holiday bauble. Not much attention was given to such family folklore after its felty demise onto the trash heap of lost dreams.
Nevertheless, we will fast forward to my first born. Before her name was uttered, a plot was hatched for a needlepoint stocking. Why needlepoint? I once heard (most likely from my museum-loving grandfather) that needlepoint was discovered in the cave of an Egyptian Pharaoh. Sticky candy be damned!
The nearest hand-painted stocking canvases were a mere day trip to New Orleans, which coincidentally is home of my first Bloody Mary and a memorable schlepp through the French Quarter with stops for raw oysters, barbecued shrimp and the stalking of Barry Manilow who was in town to sing Mandy.
In solitude, I had needlepointed before, but now with the prospect of an audience, I proceeded past the Jackson Square foretellers into The Quarter Stitch with its artsy owner and wonder of wonders a shop dog. Spellbound, I was engaged in a magical swivet very like Harry Potter and Ollivanders on Diagon Alley.
I returned to the scene three years later to purchase a stocking canvas and yarns for Quinn, the newest family member.
Little or no handwork occurred in the ensuing years. There were children to hustle, groceries to buy, mouths to educate, order to maintain, meetings to attend, wardrobes to manage, phone calls and letters to extend.
But with the appearance of a third child, my son-in-law, I was off to the undefined races, a campaign that would hasten to finish off 8 stockings in 14 years (fingers crossed before I bit the dust). It would be a blur if it wasn’t for the enchanted shop owners, custom artists and finishers nearby and afar who propped me up during the odyssey. A detailed map was drawn with another son-in-law and 6 grandchildren finalizing a “vision of stockings hung by the chimney with care”.
A maniacal task. Stitching happened on the lam, in a room full of people, under the trees, internationally, across state lines, in the dark of night, during sunrise, in the car, on a plane and most crucially within the dependable setting better known as the waiting room.
Time out. Don’t forget the airport coffee shop where the almost complete Christmas fairy stocking was left behind because haste made waste on the way to catch a flight.
Still serene side conversations were prompted when needlework was extracted from my handy dandy bag. All types of curious people had a story to share about an ancient relative who also “knitted”. After making the distinction of what we have here, I would provide a brief introduction of needlepoint. They would smile vacantly and return to their phones.
Legend has it that in olden days, a beloved father waxed concern publicly about the future of his three daughters. It was the real St. Nicholas who heard the news and knowing that the father would refuse direct charity slid down the chimney and deposited gold coins in the clean stockings drying close by. Such is the stuff of TRA-dition.
So hence forth navel oranges represent gold coins at least to my grandfather who growing up in Cave-In-Rock, Illinois registered shock each Christmas when his descendants did not salute the fabulousity of fresh fruit pulled from a stocking in winter.
Now with a twitch in my right eye and a jerk in my step, I’m in the position to adopt an elder stance of one who upon seeing mass-produced Christmas needlepoint in the marketplace will say – “Once upon a time, there was a day when people invested years of time and money, eyesight and prayers “in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there”.
A fool hardy endeavor you may say, but launching these hand-hewned party favors into the lives of my offshoots blesses the path as colorful as their heirs because as St. Francis said, “It is in the giving that we receive.”
Whew…. where’s that Bloody Mary?