December 18th, 2005
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new *found* (land) christmas

My experience of this time of year (and family tradition) is defined by a variety of projects. I was raised by women with an innate ability to create anything, from almost nothing. Historically, in our family gifts were made, not bought. This is normal being from Newfoundland where people did not have a lot of money or resources, you had to make due with what was around you. Often that would include raw materials such as old clothing (fabric), wood, wool. Every year we were guaranteed to receive knitted slippers (which resulted in me receiving stitches one year after sliding out of control on a hardwood floor, a fact which my poor Aunt Violet could not have possibly have anticipated), a sewn doll of some kind, quilts, ornaments, mitts, hats, scarves, socks, handmade toys. Now at the time, these did not seem to be the greatest of gifts. How excited can a eight year old get upon opening yet another pair of heavy brown (not to mention) wretchedly itchy slippers made out of some strange thick industrial wool that aunt thelma seemed to have an unlimited stock of, when a mere five houses down the road your best friend Patty Barnes was most certainly beaming as she untwisted the little tiny ties that held firmly the head of her new wonderfully smelling strawberry shortcake doll to the shiny pink box? (We, my sister and I did actually receive strawberry shortcake dolls at some point.)
But if we could have the ability to forsee the future, (which we most decidely do not), my eight year old mind might have difficulty understanding what would come to pass with the future of these presents. The strawberry shortcake dolls (whose wonderfull smells have long since faded) were years ago packed away and given to the goodwill (and possibly sold for a quarter to some modern eight year old who has probably never heard of strawberry shortcake and whose baby brother will inevitably drawn circles in blue pen on her soft plastic cheeks, never to be erased, dolls bought at discount seldom recieve the stature of ones bought at full price.)
But what of the slippers? the socks? the quilt?
The last of the wool socks knitted by my grandmother had to be put to rest (five years after she was) due to the large irreperable holes that had developed after I wore them almost every day in the winter for years. I tried in vain to repair them myself and finally said a tearful farewell. Then took up the needles myself to start a new pair. The same is true of the slippers. Over the years, that rough scratchy wool had softened to the most wonderfully soft, warm and comfy slippers that have ever graced my feet. When the holes got big enough I started a quest to find a pattern that would match my Aunt Violet’s. To no avail. Most of my newfie relatives are no longer living. Many of these patterns were passed down orally, different families having there own special nuances and styles.
The quilt…it lays folded on the couch behind me, my most valued possession. It is sewn with squares that were once my Nana’s dresses. My favourite a blue grid pattern with small sailboats floating over top, it was the dress she wore around the house (sewn by her of course). Some of the squares are torn now from daily use. Everytime I fold it up I think of her, and I wonder if she could have known this as she was sewing it. It is one of the greatest gifts I have ever received, I feel like there are parts of her sewn into the fibres and they soothe me everytime I wrap it around my shoulders. There is a life to the objects made by hand, that a mand made object could not possibly reproduce.
I think of this as I sit surrounded by wool, and bits of fabric and needles.

 
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