Monday, December 7, 2015

The Lamest Christmas Present Ever

(Reclaimed from Blogjob.)

Topic credit: . Image credit: my photo of my rendition of a sweater pattern by Meg Swansen--not the same pattern found in the book linked, but similar. (If the Amazon ad I'm trying to insert works this time, you'll see a link to the back issue of the magazine where the pattern I used appears.)
About forty years ago, just at the end of my parents' nomad phase where we moved across the country and left all my playthings behind every year or two, my favorite "book" from school was an old mail-order catalogue a teacher had saved for craft projects. I was allowed to take it home, and enjoyed reading the toy section, imagining what fun my brother and I could have with the dollhouses and paint sets and Legos and all the other goodies we had before the last move, or the move before last, or the move before that. Sometimes I even spared a thought for what I'd give to other kids I knew for Christmas if I had a lot of money.
Rest assured, clothing was not on the list. I was not at the age where kids think a lot about the adornment of their persons. Clothing was automatically handed down from slightly older relatives, by even older relatives; no member of my generation had much say in the matter. Some adult would decide you were outgrowing something you were wearing, although it wasn't yet short or tight enough that you noticed a problem, and the next time your mother did the laundry that garment would find its way to some other kid who wore one size smaller than you did.
It was not considered cool to be embarrassed by your parents, or their taste in clothes, even in your clothes. Even if your parents did things that were embarrassing, like hugging you in public, acting disloyal was even worse. I don't think any of the kids I knew liked most of the things we wore at school. I think most of us just silently agreed to ignore each other's clothes since no kid had chosen his or her clothes.
However, my elders debated a good deal about what children ought to wear. Some of them belonged to a church that had a rule that no female should ever be seen wearing trousers. (Women could wear pants under a skirt for practical purposes.) My parents favored unisex looks for children. particular great-aunt was particularly well off, having a lot of comfortably employed and generous adult children, and was closer to my brother and me than the rest of the great-aunts (we had about a dozen living at the time). Our parents had in theory stopped celebrating Christmas, but from relatives on that side of the family we continued to get prezzies, and since we were low on toys that year I hoped for good things from this great-aunt. Maybe she wouldn't want to be outdone by Mother's much older sister, my truly great "Aunt Dotty," who'd already sent me, not just the Barbie stewardess outfit, but the Barbie airplane.
Between Christmas presents, Un-Christmas presents mailed earlier in the year, and the usual steady stream of hand-me-downs, neither of us did too badly that year. It was the year I got the Crissy doll (as discussed at ) that I'd wanted two years earlier, and my brother got the bow with the metal-tipped arrows, and we got the Bingo game, and an off-brand early version of the University of Tennessee Cheerleader Barbie, and the magnetic checkers set.
From this particular great-aunt the whole tribe of us, or as many as showed up, two or three dozen anyway, got a party at the farmhouse. (Tightwad Tip for adults: you don't actually have to buy children anything to make their holidays merry--just turn them loose on a couple of acres of land, and not only will their eyes light up, but they'll also form bonds of cousinly affection.) After roaring around the yard for a few hours we got to preview a wonderful series of Bible story books...I don't recognize the titles here, but this is the series:
...I think each child got one as a gift, after which it was up to us to complete our own collections. I still have about a dozen of those books. So it was not as if this great-aunt really needed to give us packages, too. So there is some excuse for the fact that the package she gave me contained The. Lamest. Gift. Ever.
Well, it was a dress; I would have worn dresses to school more often if I'd owned more dresses, and might have admitted as much to someone on that side of the family. This dress, however, was pale lavender (a color that makes my face look as if I hadn't washed it for a few weeks, possibly because I'd been ill, or maybe buried). It had an ankle-length straight-cut skirt (little girls love long full swishy skirts, but they hate narrow skirts that interfere with running and climbing trees). It was made of polyester, it zipped up the back, it had a high stiff collar--everything I could think of to hate about a dress, that dress had!--and, to cap it all, it was a hand-me-down from a younger cousin, who was growing faster than I was, which was only one of several reasons why I avoided her at school.
I never actually wore that dress. I told my mother I wanted to hand it down right now, and my mother looked at the dress, understood, and handed it down.
I enjoy making clothes. Generally the division of labor in my family has been that Mother sews, and I knit. I like to knit sweaters that are useful and beautiful enough to be given as Christmas presents.
But, please...ask the person who will be wearing clothes whether that person thinks the clothes are useful or beautiful enough to be good gifts...or, at least, not The Lamest Gift Ever.

(Long-tailed tags: Christmas presentclothing as presentsgifts for childrenhand knitting,holiday parties for children,sweater as a gift.)