My mother-in-law Ms. Larda just loves Christmas sweaters.
And you can get them real cheap at garage sales, since the rest of the human race evidently decided, all at once, that Christmas sweaters are ugly.
But Ms. Larda don’t think they’re ugly. “How can Rudolph be ugly? Or Frosty? Or Santa with a nose that lights up because of a AAA battery pack hidden in somebody’s cleavage?” she says to me. “Now I think ‘Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer’ would be ugly, but I never seen no sweater that shows that.”
So I go every year to a few garage sales and pick out a Christmas sweater to gift Ms. Larda with. I used to just give them to her. But now we got to gift things to people. Which means you put it in a gift bag instead of just wrapping it up in Christmas paper.
Anyway, her annual sweater has become a little tradition between the two of us. When the Gunches all open presents after Christmas dinner, she takes her sweater out of the gift bag and immediately goes to the bedroom, strips off last year’s sweater, wriggles into this year’s and wears it for the rest of the day.
But I guess Christmas sweaters have been out of style for a little too long, because the supply of them at garage sales dried up last year – at least in XXXL, which is her size. It was getting closer and closer to Christmas, and finally garage sales stopped being held at all. In that home stretch before Christmas, I guess everybody is too busy buying the stuff that would wind up in next year’s garage sales to hold one now.
This is when I made my Big Mistake. I mentioned the problem to my son Gargoyle. Gargoyle has grown into a young man, so naturally he has a warped sense of humor. I forgot that for a crucial minute. He offers to get me one on eBay, and, like a fool, I say, “You can do that?” and he does.
He tells me he found a real classy one – if you can use classy to describe a Christmas sweater. It is starlight blue, with a snow scene that stretches in a wide white band across the chest area, and you can see the silhouettes of little reindeer romping across the new-fallen snow. He had to order it quick before he got outbid, he said.
That should have tipped me off. I know my son. But I was too busy doing my regular Christmas shopping to think twice about it.
I start to worry the week before Christmas when no sweater has turned up. I tell Gargoyle and he goes online and tracks it, and he says it’ll show up Christmas Eve. That is cutting it way too close, but what can I do?
And then, first thing Christmas Eve morning, the package arrives. I am so happy, I do a little dance while me and my daughter Gladiola rip it open. Gargoyle, who’s home for Christmas, comes in from the kitchen with a cup of coffee. I hold it up, and we all three gaze at it.
I have to admit it does look classy, and the colors are gorgeous. I am just about to say how beautiful it is, when I notice Gargoyle’s lips are twitching. So I look at this sweater again, real hard. And then I see. The reindeer silhouettes. They aren’t romping. They are doing what reindeer do to make little baby reindeer.
And this is going to be stretched across my mother-in-law’s boobs. On Christmas!
I start yelling at Gargoyle and he’s actually surprised. Turns out, he thought me and Ms. Larda were both so naive, we wouldn’t realize what one reindeer on top of another reindeer was up to. He actually thought it would his own little private joke.
“Why does every generation think they invented s-e-x? How do you think you all got here? Immaculate conceptions?” I ask him.
Anyway, he and Gladiola try thinking of ways to fix it. Get a plain sweater, sew doilies on it and call them snowflakes? Put red bows all over it?
I happen to look down at my tree skirt, which is made out of felt with big dancing snowmen, and I see what just might work. I rush this skirt over to my friend Awlette, who can sew, and she cuts off the snowmen and sews them over those frisky reindeer. It ain’t what you call gorgeous, but I seen worse Christmas sweaters.
I am out of a tree skirt, but I can use Gargoyle’s red bathrobe for that.
Anyway, on Christmas Day Ms. Larda puts it on, thanks me and wears it around all day. I breathe a big sigh of relief and go home merry.
The next day, I get a call from Ms. Larda. “I don’t know how to tell you this, but there’s something about this sweater, Modine,” she says to me. Uh-oh.
“I picked up Chopsley (that’s her Chihuahua) and he caught his claw in one of them snowmen and ripped it off. So I sat down to sew it back on, and you wouldn’t believe …”
I start apologizing, but then I realize she’s laughing. Guffawing, even.
“It’s going to be a big hit at the Banana Peel Club New Year’s Eve party,” she says.
I am scandalized. “Ms. Larda!” I say, “You can’t go out with no misbehaving reindeer across your boobs.”
“Why does every generation think they invented s-e-x?” she says to me. “Besides, the way this sweater fits, these reindeer are in my armpits. I got to lift up my arm if I want to shock somebody.
“I’m ready to do some shocking.”
I don’t ever want to know nothing about that New Year’s Eve Party.