Family/Marriage

Christmas Jammies

Christmas Tree Union Station DenverBy Jennifer Angliss

The sewing machine doesn’t hum. It barrels down the seam, rattling the table and everything on it. It’s Christmas Eve and I’m working on the Christmas jammies. Fifth Christmas without her and the sewing of my children’s jammies is a bit of therapy. She always finished her sewing at the last minute, too. I was sure I’d have to go to prom with pins in the hem of my dress. I didn’t, though. Likewise, these pants will be done by the time the kids go to bed.

I carefully trim the seams with her Gingher shears, snipping the tip off of Olaf’s nose and wonder if she would have enjoyed “Frozen.” Probably. And then the cascade of all the things she has missed washes over me. All the questions I’ve wanted to ask her since she has been gone. The tears make it hard to see the stitches and I pause to cry for a little while. I’m glad my son has finished wrapping his sister’s gift and left the room. It’s not that I don’t want him to see me cry, it’s that he doesn’t remember her. He was only four. Besides, this space is just for me and her.

It’s time to overcast the seams. It’s not in the directions for the pattern, but she taught me to always do it anyway. The zigzag stitching keeps the fabric from fraying and compromising the seam. I wish there was a way to keep my memories from fraying at the edges too. I am thankful I have pictures to help. She hated to have her picture taken, so I am lucky for the ones I have.

My daughter comes in now, to check on my progress and wrap the ornaments she has made this year as gifts. The two of them would have been so close. She remembers more than my son does, but not enough. How could it be enough?

I’m on the home stretch now, the only thing left to do is to hem up the pants legs. The music being played changes, from my melancholy mix of Pearl Jam and Pink Floyd to my son’s “Polar Express” soundtrack. It’s time to be done with the sewing anyway–there is so much to do on this Christmas Eve and I can’t spend it all with my mom.

5 replies »

  1. First off, this is a wonderful piece of writing by just about any measure you can think of.

    Second, pagan theology marks moments where “the veil is thin,” referring to the veil between the lands of the living and the dead. In these moments the spirits of ancestors are able to draw nearest to us.

    These moments are associated with the moon’s phases and the seasons, but I’m a Symbolist, not a literalist, and I think you have done a wonderful job of illustrating how the veil thins on holidays and why Christmas is so important to us – even to those of us who aren’t Christian. These events were so special to us as children and they were times where we were closest to our families, bound and bonded by sharing and by joy. I tried to get at this a bit in the little Merry Christmas note I posted earlier, but you have zeroed in on the point wonderfully. On Christmas Eve, in your last minute sewing, you thinned the veil and summoned her closer.

    I’m glad you have this ritual to keep your mom alive and present.

  2. I love this piece. It touched me the same way. Here’s a similar reflection I wrote last January:

    My throat swells in early December when I open the big cardboard box marked Christmas Decorations. Inside that box live the crystal sounds, sights and smells of Christmas mornings of years ago, when the entire toy section from the Sears catalog served as my Christmas list. Inside the box, my parents live again. My mother still sings while baking cookies, my father whistles carols as he lights the tree. Inside are the shiny souvenirs of perfect mornings past, remnants of the warm, overwhelming glow of loving wonder that was bestowed upon this now much older man.

    My boyhood senses are dulled by time, the glow displaced by responsibility and pain from the losses that accompany growing older. But the magic still lives. It seeps from the box to fill the house and the faces of my children, like the smells from my wife’s Christmas oven and our fragrant tree, where I now carry the mantle of hanger of the lights. As I release the contents of the box – ornaments from my childhood and the stockings and decorations my mother made – our hearts speed a bit, and our eyes widen to take in the rosy shimmer of the combined reds, blues, and greens of the tree.

    Another Christmas has now passed. The box has been re-filled, its magic shared with the next generation of innocents, in whose homes these treasures will one day hang. And as I put it back on the basement shelf for its long summer hibernation, I can almost hear my mother singing.