Christmas on the Prairie


I’ve been feeling less than literary these days, which is one of the occupational hazards of teetering on top of the work/life balance.  I’ve noticed that when you’re up there on that precarious perch, it’s hard to keep your balance if you have a book or a pen and paper in your hand.   I’ve also noticed that it’s particularly difficult to keep yourself from crashing to the ground during the holidays, a time when there are more than the usual number of things to do that I’m not particularly good at doing.   Like sewing.   

Since I’ve been on the subject of household management lately, I want to discuss sewing with all of you.  First, let me say that I do know how to sew.  I’ve never thought of myself as being from any particular generation, much less one that’s been around for a while, but it turns out that I’m from the tail end of a generation of women who had to take home economics in junior high, which makes me a person who’s lived in a world that many young women don’t know anything about.

If you missed it, home ec is what you took when the boys were learning to weld in shop.  It was where you learned to make coffee cake, muffins (don’t stir too much) and dresses.  They waited until the spring for sewing, wanting to make sure they could trust us with dangerous objects like knives before setting us lose on machines.  My sewing project was a dress that had six zillion darts in it.  To this day, I can’t see a dart without having a shuddery flashback to myself, c. 1974, hunched over a dress that, even by the very low standards of that decade, was terribly, terribly ugly.  

After that one dress, I put the sewing machine away for a few years.  Until 1976, in fact, when for some reason I am unable to quite fathom, I became a high school cheerleader and actually had to sew an entire uniform to wear during basketball season.  Apparently, it wasn’t enough to have one expensive uniform, the skirt and sweater you wore to football games.  Nope.  You had to have another entire get-up for the sport that mattered more than football in our town, which was basketball.   

So there I was, 16 years old, a recovering seamstress, with a pattern and a lot of red and blue and white material that I’d stuffed under my bed the instant I brought it home from the fabric store right before Christmas vacation.  It was clear to me that I was on my own when it came to sewing that basketball uniform.  My mother was busy working as a bookkeeper at J.C. Penney’s and she really didn’t want to hear about my issues with the uniform, a piece of apparel that was way more complicated than anything I could handle, involving as it did buttons and fabric that was slinky in that way only a 1970s cheerleading uniform could be slinky. 

Part of the problem in getting help with this whole uniform issue was that neither of my parents understood or approved of cheerleading.  (I don’t blame them, I don’t approve of it either.)  My mother was sort of circumspect about it, and just didn’t mention it, the way you wouldn’t mention somebody’s obvious physical handicap.  My father, on the other hand, routinely referred to my fellow cheerleaders as the vestal virgins, a phrase I found really embarassing and hoped he’d stop saying in that loud snorting way.   I was pretty sure if anyone I knew heard him using the word virgin (ick) or that whole phrase, my cover as a sort of normal girl would be totally and utterly blown.  I couldn’t talk to either one of them about the uniform, that was quite clear.

Adding to my angst over this uniform problem was that the other girls on the squad were named things like Cindy and Debbie and Tracey and Vicki and Linda and they were perfectly normal girls (not like me with my weird grandmotherly first name) and every single one of them had a mother who happily whipped up a perfect basketball uniform during Christmas vacation.  Still, I didn’t really expect anyone to come to my rescue, because I never even mentioned the problem this presented for me.  I just ignored it until it was almost too late. 

And that is how it happened that the night before the first basketball game of the season, a cold, rainy night in January, after the heat had ben turned off in our house, I stayed up until about three in the morning, like Dr. Frankenstein, piecing together odd bits of this and that, all the while holding my breath and hoping against hope I’d end up with something that sort of looked like a basketball uniform. 

Let me just say that a more misshapen thing was never worn by a Washington Patriots cheerleader before or since.  It was too big in the places where it was supposed to be snug and too snug in the places where it was supposed to be loose.  I kept it together for almost three months, and a series of championship games, using a combination of safety pins,  masking tape, and hope.  And now I’ll close the curtain on that episode in my life.

Which brings me to last night, to the Secret Santas, and to the Christmas on the Prairie. 

At the very nice school one of my older boys goes to, they do Secret Santas during the last week of school before the Christmas holidays  The children pick names out of a hat and then Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week, they give their secret friend a gift.  Okay, you’re thinking, no problem.  Five bucks, a few hairclips, or a bunch of chocolate, or a paperback book. 

But nooooooo.   That’s not how it works.  The children, you see, are meant to learn about giving from the heart.  Which means they have to make the damned presents.  Themselves.  Except they don’t really make the presents themselves.  We do.  Apparently, people like my parents no longer exist, and so no child actually has to do this project on their own while their parents are busily balancing the books of the Penney’s at the Tacoma Mall, or sitting in the brown chair in the corner of the living room reading Nietzsche, which is how my parents occupied themselves during the Christmas season.  Or at least I am not capable of being like my parents and ignoring the whole secret santa week and making my son deal with it in his own special way.  (Which would be to give the girl who’s his secret santa old baseball cards.)

My son (aka me) made his secret santa person some brownies the first night.  I thought that was pretty good, and we (me) even put them in a nice cellophane bag with a cute ribbon.  The report on the brownies’ reception was lukewarm, however.  They got crushed, he said, and were only “okay.” 

Instead of thinking, okay’s pretty good, I thought, Jesus, we’re (me) going to have to think of something genuinely charming, handmade, rough hewn and useful.  Something Laura would make for Mary in the Little House books.  (Aha!  A literary allusion.  Whew.) 

We (I) looked around, considered and disgarded hand made stationery (no nice paper in the house), more food (not special enough and besides we’re out of sugar), and came across the Martha Stewart website which is a very bad thing for a person like me, a person with a history of handmade failures, to come across at times like this. 

Too late, we (this time, both of us) saw the Christmas stockings.  Too late, we (both of us) committed to the project.  Too late, the sewing machine happened to be out (for hemming pants, something that doesn’t involve darts).  Too late, too late, too late.

And so, dear reader, we made the stocking you see at the  beginning of this extraordinarily long and rambling post.  Surprisingly, my son did a lot of the stocking.  He sewed the button ornaments on the little felt tree.  He downloaded and printed out the stocking and tree templates.  He cut stuff out.  He admired my erratic sewing.  (Mom, you’re like, so fast with that thing.)  The end result looks like it should:  utterly handmade.  But this time, thirty years later, handmade is really okay.  It’s good, in fact.  I don’t want people thinking I made it, for heaven’s sake! 

The odd thing is that making this stocking was actually a lot of fun.  Maybe it was having my son’s help, and company.  Maybe it was the fact that my son now knows how to sew on a button, something his father can’t do. Whatever it was, this project seems to have exorcised the memory of being alone in my room on a cold January night, hunched over all that red and blue slinky fabric.  I know making a stocking was a hugely inefficient way to spend a Tuesday night.  It messed up our living room, and everyone got to bed half an hour late, and I probably should have let my son have a go at the sewing machine.  (I didn’t let him.  It was too much fun to do it myself.)  But among the many redemptive things about being a parent yourself, is that you get to correct for your children a few of the things that hurt more than they should have when you were young.  Were I to come up for air from this sentimental paragraph, I’d also observe that in so doing you add a few problems of your own — in this case, maybe it would have been better for my son to do more of this for himself.  Still, having said that, I’m okay about it all.  And you know what?  I stayed up another hour after they were in bed and made another Christmas stocking.  For my son.  From his secret santa.  Me. 


30 thoughts on “Christmas on the Prairie

  1. Lily my dear, the stocking is lovely. I hope the little girl likes it. I’m sure she will.

    Whooeee! I’m the first comment!! But, as you know, I’ve nothing better to do today and tomorrow then sit in my room and read people’s blogs.

    I know this post is about the stocking and Christmas and all that good stuff but LILY!!! Did I know that you were a cheerleader!!!??? Did you know that I was also (head cheerleader in fact)?? Three years earlier than you in fact. We had a summer uniform, a winter uniform (involving the sweater) and for basketball we wore a sweater vesty thing. I was one of those lucky ones (Debby with a Y) who had a mom who sewed brilliantly and i think my uniforms were probably the most well-made. My parents loved me being a cheerleader (probably mostly to shut me up). It was something I wanted to badly – badly enough for a very shy girl, who couldn’t give oral presentations in class, to do a cheer, alone, in front the of the entire school in the auditorium during the final “tryouts.” But, I disliked being the actual business of being a cheerleader. That experience made me realize that I wasn’t really a “joiner” and how winning something like that can bring out jealousy and other strange emotions and actions in other people. I see the cheerleaders today and they bear no resemblance to what it was that we did. We were just 5 girls and a boy (the school desperately wanted a boy involved and rigged the whole process to get him in. He was barely able to clap his hands in time). We just stood there and did some “cheers” and encouraged the crowd to get excited.

    I think the reason I wanted it so badly was that, back in the day (1972/73), there wasn’t much of a school sports program for girls and what little they did have didn’t interest me. The high school I went to now has a separate girls gym and lots of programs. That would have been a great help for an energetic little girl like me in those days.

    Sorry this is so long-winded and off topic. I should have sent it in an email but I’m too lazy.

  2. I took wood shop instead of home ec and now I highly regret it, because while I have little occasion to use woodburning tools or craft a paper towel holder out of wood scraps, I would really like to be able to sew some damn curtains or hem a pair of pants.

    Also, I was a pom pon girl.

  3. Lily, when we were very young, Mom actually sewed Barbie doll dresses. That was a labor of love on her part. She’s not really the sewing kind. That was also the same time she learned how to knit and crochet.

    When my children were very small, I used to make clothes for them. But you won’t catch me using the sewing machine any time soon. But kudos to you for helping with the stocking.

    It’s time to have Alyssa learn how to sew.

  4. My admiration for you grows by leaps and bounds! I, too, took home ec. in junior high (only, by then, even in North Carolina, boys were assigned to the class, too, as were girls to shop) and never did manage to master the sewing machine. For some completely mysterious reason, because I’m sure I’d score in the bottom tenth percentile if tested on things such as detail-orientation and fine motor skills, I was able to embroider, which a friend of mine wasn’t. When it came time to make our little animal pillows, she operated the machine for me to get my damn walrus stitched together, and I did all the embroidery work on her octopus’s face. These days, I can maybe, if really forced to, sew on a button, but hemming pants? Making stockings? Forget it. I don’t even own a sewing machine.

  5. Another beautifully written post, BlogLily–thank you for sharing. I think I was in one of the last home ec groups, too. I didn’t sew so well either, but I enjoyed myself. In fact, I was rather proud of the blouse and pair of pants I made, poorly constructed as they were.

  6. A cheerleader?!

    The stocking is very, very sweet; my mental picture of you two hunkered over your sewing machine is even sweeter. But what impresses me most is that this whole project didn’t seem to make you cranky. I get cranky just thinking about the chocolate mousse that I have to “help” make tomorrow night…

  7. I sewed the dress I was wearing to the dress I was making in Home Ec. My sewing skills never improved. When my son was in 6th grade, he needed a costume for the Christmas pagent. I followed the directions (which came home with only 2 days notice!) to the letter, but instead of looking like a shepherd’s costume, it looked like, um, a ghost. I took one look at him & asked if he could play the “Hole-y Ghost”. Once I stopped laughing I realized I was in serious sewing trouble: it was after 9pm and there was no way that I would ever get the shepherd’s robes to look like anything but a lame Halloween costume. While my child pouted about how this would be the only thing Ever! that would make it obvious to the other kids at his Catholic school that he wasn’t Catholic (not to mention what a pathetic failure his mother was), I called a friend and pleaded for assistance. With love and a little patience and a sewing machine, she turned the hole-y ghost costume into the best-looking shepherd’s costume and somehow convinced my son that I had helped to accomplish it.

    Your stocking is beautiful; even more beautiful is that you spent the time with your son. I bet he’ll remember his Secret Santa stocking for a long, long time.

  8. Oh, BL, this post brought back so many sweet Home Ec memories. I will have you know I was still sewing ugly dresses well into my second year of design school (as a fashion major, no less!) one of which (a green cotton minidress with flocked frogs at the hem) my mother actually keeps and will not throw out – because it’s so hideous someday the Smithsonian may want it.

    And the stocking is great!

  9. Oh Debby (with a Y), I don’t think Ms. ToBeMe would mind sharing first place with someone who’s such a loyal and good friend as you. That part about the boy who could barely clap his hands made me laugh. Those sorts of earnest efforts at gender equality adults try to get children to agree to always end up like that. As for our mutual cheerleading experiences, I believe I might have failed to mention this, despite our long history and friendship, because I was the world’s dorkiest cheerleader. Best forgotten. (Except in the service of the blog!)

    Funny you should mention that yogamum, but the year after I took home ec, there was a little girl’s lib revolution at my junior high and we all got to take shop. I learned to weld that year and, like you, how to burn stuff into wood. I often wish my children would need something welded (and that we had the torch thingy) but alas, all they seem to need is sugar/flour concoctions and the occasional christmas stocking.

    Sue, Why do I have the terrible feeling that mom is going to read what I just wrote and say to herself, I was SO NOT balancing the books at JC Penney’s during Christmas! I was trying to figure out why Lily had all that red and white and blue fabric under her bed and every time I asked her if there was something I should know, she’d mutter, “um, no, things are just fine.” I don’t remember the barbie clothes, mostly because YOU owned all the barbies and never let me play with them and by the time you left home you’d taken all those barbies you were hoarding and did who knows what with them and left me with nothing but …. books! So there. Oops. Is it as apparent as I think it is that I’m still pissed off that you were born first??

    Emily, You made a walrus for home ec!! That’s incredible. I wish I’d gotten to make something sort of cute. (Tell you what — I’ll make you a Christmas stocking if you embroider me a walrus… give it some thought, okay? We could do a little mini-craft-mooch.)

    SS — I think your blouse and pants were probably completely plausible wardrobe items. My dress was the saddest thing you’ve ever seen. (And I loved your post about Toni Morrison and hair today, by the way and when I’m done nattering on about sewing, I’m going to go over there and tell you so myself.)

    My dear Debbie, The boys read your post and one of them said, “Mom, didn’t you tell those people how cranky you were?” Alas, no, sweetie, I don’t tell people that I scream and yell and throw things around and generally behave like the sort of mother people write about in their memoirs of surviving traumatic childhoods. Nope, I don’t do that. Anyway, I’m sorry to hear about the mousse and send you my sympathy. As for the cheerleading episode, I believe that never came up in our almost thirty years of friendship because, well, as I told the other Debby, it was one of the more unlikely and odd things I’ve ever done.

    Cam, The image of you sewing the dress you were making to the dress you were wearing is one of the funniest things I’ve heard all day. Can I steal that for a piece of fiction someday? Why is it, anyway, that we’re supposed to costume our children for things like the school play? I’ve spent the whole day trying to find black pants that fit two of my children so they can match the hundred other children up on the stage at the Christmas pageants they’re doing. You’d think they were on broadway.

    Hello Ella, fellow grannygirl, That minidress sounds stunning. I’m with your mother. Someday, some starlet will take it for a whirl at some Fashion Institute Gala something. But let’s hope she remembers to wear her undergarments when she does it.

    You know what Fencer? The first time it ever occurred to me that that was kind of funny was this morning. That’s what happens when you hear an adult to whom you’re related use the word virign when you’re sixteen years old. And thank you for the compliment about the stocking. Apparently the girl who got it liked it. My son reported this afternoon that if he had to give it a grade he’d give it an A minus. We don’t hand out praise too precipitiously in this family, apparently.

  10. Thanks for a classic BlogLily post – I love the image of your Dad in the chair reading Nietzsche and cracking jokes about vestal virgins. I had the bad luck to have the same sewing teacher who had taught my mother at the horrible ladies’ academy that passed for the school I went to – so my terrible efforts at sewing were rewarded with comments like “Your mother would never have sewed a seam like this”. I was scarred and like Emily, don’t sew except for the odd button and pirate’s eye patch.

    Glad to hear both your son and his secret Santa recipient were pleased with the stocking, which is lovely.

  11. I am the same age as you, I was able to work it out through the Home ec stuff. We in the UK at that time called it ‘Domestic Science’ I made or half made a dress with darts, waist bands etc and haven’t picked up a sewing machine since. My husband sews on his own buttons! The cooking part was equally awful – cleaning, burnt custard, menu plans for your ‘husbands!!!’ dinner that should be ready as he walked in the door – I think my teacher missed the second wave feminist revolution!
    I love your blog and read it avidly despite not commenting befor but you provoked so many memories today I just had to.

  12. Snicker.. I believe the boys yanked off all of the barbie doll heads and did disgusting things with them. You would have been around 5 or so and of course I WOULDN’T SHARE. 🙂

    Did you know that Dad used to repair sewing machines in addition to sitting in the chair and reading?

    Hey, books in our house were from the library. I don’t remember buying that many of them except for my Rod McKuen poetry books. I do remember reading all of Dad’s books, though. As well as every Red book and the encyclopedias. Out of pure boredom.

    I vaguely know where the sewing machine is — I last used it making Alyssa a pair of Christmassy patterned pants in 1996. I don’t even sew buttons any more.

  13. You got to be a cheerleader?!! I tried out but did not win the popularity contest. Oh well. It wasn’t until years later I learned how politically incorrect it all was.

    I never took home ec. Or shop. I was always in band and chorus. But I didn’t feel like I needed to take home ec. My mother taught me to sew, not really at the point of a gun, but it was enforced learning. She felt it was more economical to make your clothes than to buy them,and in 1965 it actually was.

    My sewing lessons began because I was a rowdy little tomboy who ran around and climbed trees and bailed out of swings and did other things that caused my peers to chant “I see London, I see France, I see Ellie’s underpants.” I was continually coming home with my clothing ripped to shreds. It was so bad my 4th grade teacher had a box of safety pins in her desk labelled “Ellie’s Pins.”

    Anyway, one day my poor overworked mother looked at me and said, “The next time you come home with your skirt ripped off the waistband, you are learning to sew.” Sure enough, about two weeks later, I went to school in the latest creation off her machine, a very pretty dress with a v-waist, lace insets, etc etc. I loved that dress, but despite my affection I neglected to tuck it under me properly when I started down the slide and when I reached the bottom my skirt was attached at the top and strung out all along the slide.

    Indeed, I did learn to sew. I honed my skills making clothing for my doll Kate (it was before Barbie). I still have the doll and much of the clothing, which is high style fifties stuff. We even made a United Airlines Stewardess uniform for Kate.

    In spite of my facility with the sewing machine and knitting needles and embroidery floss, I understand the terror that people face when they try to do something that ought to be fairly simple but truly isn’t. I gained that compassion from my struggles as I tried to learn how to access the internet and use a cell phone.

    I surely wish I knew how to weld!

  14. Perception is a funny thing. I do remember you being a cheerleader. I do not remember any “ugly” outfit–I was always very proud of you. I pretty much have always figured you couldn’t sew–which doesn’t surprise me because I also thougt you couldn’t cook . What I do recognize about the past and a big part of how we grew up, you (we) never asked for help (what is it about us and asking for help?) You were too young to remember this but one Christmas Dad and Mom hand made most of the Christmas gifts. It was pretty cool. If it helps any when we were young all of us did our own sewing (including the boys–buttons, jeans and anything that needed repair). Both Dad and Mom know how to sew. Dad’s father made his sole living fixing sewing machines. You would be surprised how good Dad is on a sewing machine.
    I have no children. I envy and admire your ability to (even if in a small way) avoid the mistakes our parents may have made by doing “more” with the boys. What a wonderful thing to be able to do. It is a kind of “growth” in a way and an important part of who we are.
    Dad’s father would abandon him for days at a time in a hotel room while he wandered around fixing sewing machines. Dad, of course, avoided that mistake when he raised us (thank God). I can’t remember Dad every talking about having a Christmas (you ever notice that?). I guess he avoided that mistake with us–as we never missed a Christmas. Life would appear to be about “progress” and not perfection–and progress is really all about perception.
    I guess I now have to add sewing to the list of the many great gift you have! As to cooking–I’ll hold out for a dinner invite.

  15. Oh Tom, I didn’t know about the handmade presents, and certainly not the sewing machines. I think by the time I was an adolescent, that fervent do it yourselfness had been pretty well passed on to all of us and mom and dad were busy doing things to keep themselves and us going forward. For dad that meant getting himself through college and graduate school, for mom that meant going out and working. It was good to have self-reliance as a norm, far better than the alternatives.

    It’s interesting how we each see our past in ways that are slightly different, through the lens of our different ages, genders, and personalities. And yes indeed you are absolutely right that each generation does a little better than the one before it. When my own chidren are parents, they will be a bit less volatile, a bit less controlling, and a bit more spontaneous than I. Oh, and they’ll make sure their children have a television. But I hope they, like you, remember how their own parents did the best they could, given where they began their parenting journey.

    I think we’re all terribly proud of each other, in our own ways, and I’ve always felt very lucky to have siblings who still speak to each other, care about each other, and remember our shared family lives. Plus, you are a much better lawyer than I am, because you have the true gift of persuasion, which turns out to be much more helpful in the world than the gift of memorization (my own special skill).

  16. What a wonderful post! I was cursed with having a grandmother who was a professional dressmaker, and a mother who sews incredibly well, and naturally I am hopeless in all matters practical. When my son’s new school uniform required not just one, but two name tapes to be attached in highly specific places, I sat around grumpily drawing blood with the needle and moaning ‘They’ve mistaken me for the kind of mother who sews!’ I think that now, dear BL, you can certainly claim to be that ideal person. Oh and incidentally I detest those school obligations that parents have to do for children – there ought to be a law against them.

  17. Dear Lily~

    I admire you so much! I am one of the Home Ec generation as well, and I remember a beautiful courdoroy zebra print skirt that I made. After which I never touched a sewing machine again, because it was just too difficult for me. I can sew on buttons, and sometimes I sew beads and appliques onto old clothes to make them more interesting and viable again. But if I want something done like hemming pants, I take it to a dry cleaning shop and have some other lovely woman do it for me.

    My mom sewed beautifully, and her doll costumes even won contests. She made a lot of my clothes when I was growing up, and I loved them.

    Well, at least I can cook!

    ~Love and Blessings,

  18. It sounds like — from the highly scientific survey that is the comments section to this blog — many of us had mothers and grandmothers who really knew their way around a sewing machine. Charlotte, Selene and Litlove, healing Magic Hands, and my own mother, to name a few. It’s interesting how sewing isn’t about survival anymore, but more about creating gifts. I really do only use my sewing machine to hem pants — almost twenty this year so far (and at $20 a pair, I’m willing to hem!)

    Ms. Whiz — Welcome! how fun to hear from someone I’ve never met, or even knew existed, who’s exactly the same age. Don’t be shy about speaking up. No one’s ever going to be mean to anyone here.

  19. I love your post and the picture of the stocking.You don’t have the power of persuasion—as if! You have more charisma in your little fingernail than Gavin Newsom has in his entire slicked back and greased down body. I also remember home ec– Miss Lucier in the 7th grade, the year was 1971. She taught us how to make cinnamon toast by mixing the cinnamon together with the sugar before sprinkling it onto the bread, which we then put under the broiler. We never did it that way at home. Mine burned. And, I made a single straight line skirt. I cried and cried at the way the thread tangled because I could never get the thread tension right. My mom had a Singer sewing machine, but I don’t remember her actually completing any projects. Maybe she did. I have a sewing machine, which I bought on a sudden impulse in 1995. I have used it only rarely. My proudest accomplishments are the bedspreads I made for the kids, by sandwiching cotton quilt batting between two pieces of fabric and stitching up all four sides. You were very brave to sew your cheerleader costume. I want to see pictures!

  20. Just another comment, this time about sewing, and my Mom. Forgive me while I walk down memory lane . . .

    I have two sisters, one 2 years older and the other 2 years younger. Until she got a new, electric sewing machine when I was in 4th grade (around 1965), my mom sewed a lot of our clothes on an old Singer treadle sewing machine. She also knitted us slippers and beautiful sweaters. I think most of this was done out of financial necessity rather than an overwhelming desire to sew and knit.

    Plus, each year at Christmas, “Santa” brought new clothes for our baby dolls – panties, petticoats, dresses, aprons, jackets and bonnets, all handmade by my Mom. I still have one of those outfits on my Thumbelina doll (yes, I still have my “Thumby” and can’t seem to part with her). And, she made Barbie (or, in my case, Midge) dresses too – some of which matched my own clothes. My dad said she would stay up all night sewing in the weeks before Christmas, making all those doll clothes and blankets. Gives me watery eyes thinking about it…

    I never learned to sew and had no interest in having my Mom teach me. I regret that very much.

  21. Hi Mary, How nice to outscore Gavin on the persuasiveness meter. (I like him, by the way. He’s a regular on KFOG, a first for a Mayor of San Francisco, and he has a way of meeting and responding to criticism that’s really impressive.) My brothers can (and have) talk people into doing thing I’ve never even dreamed of suggesting. That’s why Tom’s a trial lawyer. That’s why I work for the court! That cinammon toast sounds good. Still, you’d think it would be enough to toast the toast, butter it and sprinkle on cinammon sugar. Broilers are dangerous! (As is a sewing machine.)

    Hello Debby, Your mom’s a true pioneer woman. I think you’re right that some of that knitting and sewing happened out of financial necessity. But the doll clothes? That sounds like a lot of fun. If I had more time (and children who had baby dolls), I can imagine giving that a go. I’m just afraid the end product would be a little scary.

  22. Sidetracking into the medium is the message for a minute, you might think it a telling commentary on bloggerati taste that you have more comments on sewing Christmas stockings, cheerleading, and family tales than on a book review of The Eminent Victorians. But not to worry; when you add up the comments on your TWO pieces on Lytton Strachey, both the Imminent and Eminent versions, the latter admitedly spiked with a little Jon Stewart, their are more comments on Strachey than junior high home ec, etc. For more on this topic see my website. Just proves you can write on anything and draw out so many people in the world that are driven by the good and simple things available to us rather than by a compulsion to devour the earth. Tis the season to remember that each of us has a gift to give.

  23. I read through this post and had a quiet giggle at the “Vestal Virgins” then kept reading thinking to myself “That’s nice”, “How sweet”, “Really – – -“, “Great”.
    All in all, it was a really interesting and nice “domestic” post (in Australia we also had “Dommy Sci” for the girls). Then I read the last four sentences – and I got a whole lot of dust in my eyes! That was unfair! Grandfathers are not supposed to cry!

  24. Dear Smokey, It’s so much fun reading what people have to say on a variety of subjects. (And I also like hearing, offline, what people who don’t comment have to say too.) Some topics are easier to respond to than others; certainly, recalling being forced to learn to cook and sew really dredges up the past!

    Archie, You’re a sweet grandfather is all I can say.

  25. This was such a fun read and brought back so many memories of yes, horrible Home Ec which I hated but it did teach me how to sew and do laundry (though once my naughty friend and I stuck grape Fizzies in the washer when nobody was looking and watched everything turn purple through the front window. I somehow also managed to take the carpentry class the boys got instead of home ec when it was offered during the summer and I still use the notepaper on a roll dispenser that I made in that class back in 1963! Thanks for the great story and the wonderfu picture. If nothing else, it’s great your son learned to sew on buttons.

  26. Pingback: Good News and Bad News « BlogLily

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