I know we're supposed to be thinking about Thanksgiving and all, and I am trying. But I'll really start thinking about it on Wednesday, when I go shopping along with every other person in the United States for groceries. I don't mind that. Every year since I've lived in Portland I've made a special trip to Zupan's the day before Thanksgiving and sauntered willingly through the whole list — it's part of the holiday for me, that grocery-getting trip. This year Andy and I will do it together, my favorite way.
Last night I was going through some of my vintage Christmas things to bring to the antique booth and I stopped to look through a magazine just to make sure I didn't want to keep it. Well, turns out, I do want to keep it. Amazingly, it is the same one that my mom had in 1970 and from which she made this little Santa out of paper-towel tubing, painted with enamel. There is also an angel and a snowman and a bird. I have a couple of them packed away with my ornaments. I can't wait to get them out now, this weekend. That little funnel angel — wow. Perhaps my Lucias will have gelatin-mold capelets?
The magazine is called McCall's Christmas: Make-It Ideas Volume XIII, and contains 301 knitted, crocheted, sewn, baked, and other crafty things to make. It's really cute. There is something about Christmas crafts that are so sweet and appealing. I think it's because the season brings out crafty-ness in everyone, even those folks who don't pick up a needle or paintbrush or gluestick all year. There is a craft for all of us at Christmastime, and our favorite old items tend to hold much more emotion and nostalgia than technique. It is enough that they exist, that someone took the time to do it, once. Some of my favorite afternoons as a kid were spent making things for Christmas: bread-dough ornaments, pom-pom snowmen, marshmallow trees (you dip a toothpick in food coloring, decorate large marshmallows, and then poke them into a styrofoam tree with toothpicks — the things last for years). When they come out again, dozens of years later, I dare you not to let loose at least one memory-soaked sob.
My mom was incredibly crafty and still is — she is a full-time professional crafter, too, and has been so for over twenty years. My dad was a graphic designer and a professional musician, so we were steeped in art supplies and '70s-rock by default. When we were kids, my mom went through probably every craft phase that came along, and she would do it in a major way: macrame, candy making, bread-dough baskets, needlepoint, crewel, fimo clay, always sewing. With almost every one of those phases came some sort of order-taking; for years she sold amazing cakes around River Forest just by word of mouth. My father always, for as long as I can remember, had a classified ad for one of his inventions running in a magazine somewhere; my favorite was the light attached to the CB antenna that lit whenever you were talking. We all had handles: He was Gorilla, my mom Gypsy Moth. I was Dopey. I wanted to be Golden Sparrow, which was my name in Indian Princesses.
So being talented with the craft supplies, or even entrepreneurial about it is not remarkable in our family. It's just what we do. At Christmastime, we did a lot. My mom did a lot. My mom was only 24 when I was born, but it seems that she always had time for crafting. We weren't encouraged to make things, we weren't discouraged. My parents always let us do whatever we wanted, whether it was sports or ballet or horseback-riding (though they didn't love that one) or drawing or sewing, we had classes and supplies if we wanted them. I get the feeling that if we didn't want them, that would've probably been okay too. My parents were always pursuing their own creative activities; they'd stop and look over at us occasionally if we asked. I'm very grateful now that I had that freedom. Sometimes I wonder what would've happened if I'd been encouraged. I probably would've quit. That is my special way — the minute anyone showed the slightest interest in me, I would twitch, then move on, not wanting, apparently, the expectations that come with interest. I was pretty good at lots of different things, but you'd better not tell me that, or I'd quit, lest you'd expect me to get better.
Christmas crafts are still my favorite. Last year when I made this wreath, I did it with the intention that it would be kept. Who really knows what will get kept, or lost. There is so much to say about the doing, especially at Christmas, when the atmosphere is as much a part of the thing as the thing itself. And my little dream of knitting a sock on a chair-and-a-half: I think I was going for not just the experience but was actually planning for the memory of the experience, for when I wear that sock years from now, and remember the chair, and the music, this year. You know what I mean. It's a self-consciousness I don't normally bring to crafting, thank goodness. But every once in a while, especially at Christmas, I can't help but think.