“Real Generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present.” —Albert Camus
Greetings Dear Ones!
Well, the Holly Daze is in full swing here at the little corner of the world where I spend my days looking at the world through the holes in your pants. Mishaps with pants have been a running joke in the shop since Thanksgiving. First, there was the young woman who brought in three pairs of yoga pants because her dog had eaten the crotch out of all of them. She wants us to patch them as best we can…crotchless Yoga is definitely NOT a thing here in New England, at least not yet. (“Lord, have Mercy!” exclaims Prudence) She notes snarkily that if this young woman hadn’t left these pants in little piles on her bedroom floor, this would never have happened. “Her room is probably a pig sty!” she mutters.
Next in is Mr. Winchester, a senior gentleman whose pants have been very hard to fix. The fabric, which probably dates to the Geneva Convention, is fraying badly and the very act of patching it is creating more holes. “I’m not sure there is a whole lot of life in these pants,” I start to explain. His eyes widen with astonishment and his nostril hairs quiver as he snorts, “Young lady, I’m not INTERESTED in having life in my pants!” He seems quite put out by the very idea. I can’t help being drawn to him. He would make a fabulous New Year’s date for Prudence.
Another woman comes in with a bag of pants to hem. She plops them on the counter and says “Betcha can’t guess where I just came from? Holy Mackerel Cemetery is having a sale! Yeah, get this—their little niches are usually a thousand dollars a-piece but all this week they are going for seven hundred!”
“What’s a niche?” I want to know.
“It’s when they cremate you and you have a little hole in the wall to put the ashes in after,” she explains. “I decided to go for it. It’s probably my only shot at getting a smokin’ hot body in this lifetime. Anyway, you should go for it! I bought two—one for me and one for a friend so I know who my next door neighbor is going to be. The sooner you do it, the cheaper it is.”
“Which church is Holy Mackerel?” I ask.
“It’s that big old cathedral on the south side of Main Street. Their two main gripes are about loose living and tight giving,” she says with a roll of her eyes. “I don’t go all that often but I thought I should end up hanging out where everyone I know is going to wind up eventually. My parents are there already. But they’re in the ground. I ain’t going in the ground.”
Mrs. Merryweather pops in then to collect her order and says “I’m sick of all this rain. I hear it’s going to snow. Well, at least you don’t have to shovel rain.” She sighs to indicate how hard her life is under an umbrella all the time.
“Wadda ya expect?” says the cemetery lady. “It’s New England. It’s supposed to be cold!”
“I don’t mind the cold so much,” says Mrs. Merryweather primly, “It’s the snow I hate.”
“Really? I’m just the opposite,” announces the other one. “I’d take four feet of snow any day just as long as it’s ninety degrees out! I’m back to Florida as soon as Christmas is over.”
They leave together and I pick up a tiny pair of pants to hem. “It says ‘hem as marked and pinned but there are marks all over this pair of pants. Which one is right?” I ask my friend who did the fitting.
“Oh,” she says giggling, “those belong to a little boy who asked why I was marking his clothes. He was fascinated with the chalk and wanted to draw some of the lines himself. These are his lines,” she points out a series of marks, “and this is where the finished length should be. Leave him plenty of hem for growing.” I nod.
And so it goes in our cozy little shop…an ordinary day of gossip about the weather, the afterlife, and our various plans for growing and dying and trying not to get too cold or wet or miserable in between. As usual, it’s a balancing act of appreciating the absurd and having heart-touched contemplation as we Prepare… both for Christmas and what comes next.
I finish hemming a batch of pants and dial the telephone number on the order slip to let the customer know he can come any time before five p.m. to collect them. A woman answers the phone. I ask to speak to the name on the slip—a man’s name. “Who is this?” she asks in Alert, Suspicious tones. I am taken aback and pause, confused. She must not have heard me identify myself and the shop when she first answered. “I don’t recognize this number,” she says, her tone escalating sharply, “Why are you calling my husband?!” For one delicious, wicked moment, I consider responding in my most sultry voice “well, madam (breath…) if you MUST know (breath…breath…) your man left his pants here when he came to visit me last week…(squeak) and I cannot divulge my identity but he knows (breath…sigh…squeak) where to find them if he wants them… And honey, please remind him we only take cash for our services…He usually remembers but…just in case…” Luckily, Prudence steps in and smacks my inner harlot upside the head before I can go through with it.
There is a lot of seasonal sewing and attaching-red-plaid-bows-on-things to do. Luckily, it’s the time of year when customers are most apt to bring us plates of cookies! Hannukah has been and gone—not that there is too much sewing to be done for that—and all the Nutcracker costumes are finished being tailored to fit the dancers. (All excepting the wee boy who played Fritz, whose britches kept falling down during the entire party scene.) The bulk of what we have left to do consists of commissioned Christmas gifts and all the formal gowns for New Year’s Eve events—three of which are actually weddings. Thanks to a kindly aunt, nine lucky grandchildren will awake on Christmas day to find their deceased Meme’s blouses and shirts turned into pillows they can hug. A border collie named Molly is getting a new hunting vest in neon orange, and a rabid sports enthusiast is getting a custom-made sport coat made of eye-wateringly “busy” Red-Sox-patterned fabric his wife dragged here from the quilting section of Jo-Ann fabrics.
This fabric was never intended to be used for a garment. But this is Red-Sox Nation. Baseball is a religion. Apparently, this man is going to wander his village as some sort of loudly dressed prophet, with his clothes silently screaming about fly balls, foul balls, and whatever other sorts of balls they have in baseball. Does he really WANT this? The mind boggles. To see his excited wife bounding about the shop, clapping her hands with glee worries me. Is this something he actually wants or is this something she is relieved she has designed because better ideas were not available? At the end of the day, does it really matter? It’s the thought that counts. And the hours of labor… She has no worries about how much this will cost. “He’s going to LOVE this and you have NO IDEA how hard he is to buy for!” she gushes. She is so excited that she has hit the jackpot on Ideas this time. With the Bruins, the Patriots, and the Celtics—each with their own garish, god-awful fabric designs at Jo-Ann’s, his wardrobe expansion is set for the next 3 years to come. “Can you make matching suit pants?” she wants to know.
As deadlines approach for mailing things and finishing things, we grow a bit more frazzled and frantic. “The Most Wonderful time of the year” can often be the Most Stressful too. (No…wait, that’s Prom Season!) It’s dark and bitter cold by the time we close the shop. At home, it’s a deadly game each evening on my little homestead, as I skitter to bring water to my chickens and sheep over an alien topography of residual snow that has turned to icy cement. Survival, for any of us, is not guaranteed. It’s a blessing to distract ourselves with happy projects and thoughts of giving and anticipating another person’s delight. It’s a privilege to be creatively involved in other people’s impulses to share. We need things to warm not just our hands but our hearts and minds as well.
Our lives can seem small and rough and drearily mundane sometimes. It can feel like we aren’t getting what we wanted or that we are unable to give others what it is they might want. Some of us are prompted to ridiculous, over-extended extremes. Giving itself can be a tricky form of asking—asking to be special, asking to be loved. Sometimes, as George Bailey learns in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” it’s not about getting what we want after all. It’s about realizing all we already have—and what we give daily, without even thinking.
Blessings Dear Ones! Keep Giving! Keep Creating! Keep doing Good Work! May your hearts, hands, and homes be warm and merry and bright.