Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A disappointment for Eileen and Daniela

Christmas is going to be at my house this year; so I e-mailed Dessie to ask her to send the kids' Christmas stockings over. Alas, the answer came back: she couldn't find them.

Now, I am trying to make it, without borrowing any money before payday, all the way through December (nine kids for whom presents have to be bought and to whom money has to be given for all the presents they need to buy each other, plus four -- count 'em, four -- of the nine birthdays all land in December as well). I don't really think I'm gonna make it, but if I do, it's gonna be a squeaker. So the following internal dialog ensues:

"What do you think those fancy Christmas stockings cost? I'm out fifty bucks before I even turn around, I betcha. [sigh] OK, Pierce, I guess the kids get homemade felt Christmas stockings this year. Which is going to be fun since you never sew...okay, say you get a piece of felt, and you fold it in half, and then you cut half a sock shape into it -- that should work; at least you'll know the two halves will match...yeah, that oughta work. But then don't they need some sort of cuff at the top? And how do you put names on them?...Dude, you better call your mom."

My mother and sister made my sister's wedding dress and hat from scratch, without a pattern -- they just looked through bridal magazines until they saw something that inspired them, and then they designed it and made their own patterns and produced the whole thing from scratch. So, you know, Christmas stockings they could do in their sleep. I call my mom, and we go over my plan, and she assures me that it should work, even for as hopeless as a neophyte as myself. Mom and Pop already have the car packed, as they're about to head out for Oklahoma City; but Mom says, "Hang on and I'll try to see how many I can make for you before you leave." We agree that we'll both start and when together we've gotten to nine we'll be done.

I have Rusty and Merry and Sally with me, and we head off for Java Dave's, which is right next to Jo-Ann's -- the plan is that the kids can check e-mail while I go over to Jo-Ann's and try to collect the stuff I need. On the way it occurs to me that I have no idea how to tie the thread off when I get done so that it won't just fall out. I'm about to call my mom, but then I think, "You know, I bet Eileen knows how to sew; I'll just have her show me." I therefore go into Java Dave's with the kids, and as they scatter toward the computers, I go up to the counter where Eileen and Daniela are chatting.

"Hi, Mr. Pierce," they say, and I greet them back, and then I ask Eileen, "Miss Eileen, do you by any chance know how to sew?"

Eileen and Daniela are used to the fact that my conversation tends to the unpredictable, but this is a more eye-widening conversational opening gambit than they expect even from me. Seeing their evident confusion, I quickly explain the situation, and add, "I think I can sew the things well enough for them not to fall apart when the toys get dropped in -- I mean, they won't look good, but the kids don't expect that. The problem is I don't know how to tie the thread off, and [to Eileen] I was hoping you could show me."

"Oh, Mr. Pierce," says Eileen with sincere regret, "I don't sew."

This actually surprises me -- Eileen had seemed to me like the kind of person who would know how to sew, for some reason, though now that I think of it I have no idea what I think "a person who can sew" looks like. But at this point Miss Professional Pre-School Teacher Daniela jumps into the conversation:

"But, Mr. Pierce, I can help you -- I'm very crafty."

Resisting the urge to make a bad pun, because I don't want to antagonize her until after I've got the stocking situation taken care of, I thank her profusely. "So all I need is the felt, the thread, a needle, and a thimble, right? And scissors."

"Yes, Mr. Pierce, that should do it. And I can show you exactly how because we've made them before. I'll help you."

This is excellent news. "Great, I tell you what, I'll walk over to Jo-Ann's and get the stuff, and then I'll bring it back here and I'll make one of them here, to make sure I know how."

We now have a plan; plus Eileen and Daniela no longer need to fear boredom for the rest of the evening even if it's a slow customer night -- I put the over-under for blood-drawing finger punctures at, say, five. A veritable live-action America's Funniest Incompetent Seamster episode is about to unfold before their eyes; this is much more interesting than the typical Evening At Dave's.

I walk over to Jo-Ann's and find there the same helpful lady who was given the thankless task, a week or so ago, of helping me decide what supplies Rusty might need for making a Christmas stocking craft project in school -- a rather more complicated task than you might suspect, given that Rusty had forgotten to bring home the note with the list of supplies, and had forgotten to mention the project until 8:00 the night before he was supposed to bring his materials. In the event, not only did she equip Rusty with the stuff that he needed, but it turned out Rusty was one of only two or three kids who remembered to say anything to the parents and brought supplies, and therefore the whole class used Rusty's and the other two kids' materials, and Rusty brought home a very cute, but very very small, Christmas stocking. So when I see that she is working this shift, I make a beeline for her.

"Oh, hello again," she says. "How did your son's Christmas stocking project turn out?"

I tell her the story and thank her for her help. Then I explain that I need to make stockings for all my kids because their Christmas stockings have unexpectedly been lost during the divorce process, and I list the materials and tools I'm expecting to buy, and I ask, "Is that everything I need?"

She has a very odd expression on her face. "Well," she says carefully, "I think that would be fine, but you do realize that we sell felt Christmas stockings ready-made, right?"

"Really?" Choosing my words and tones equally carefully, I inquire, "How much do they cost?"

"We have them on sale now, actually, 60% off -- I think they're about a dollar and a half."

I suppose the expression on my face is eloquent, because she smiles and says, "They're over here."

So in the end I bought the ready-made felt stockings for about the same price as, I suspect, it would have cost me to buy the materials; and she showed me this very useful stuff called "glitter glue," of which I bought several different colors. And for the last couple of days the kids have had a high old time decorating their own Christmas stockings. Plus I called my mom, who in the half-hour or so since we had last talked had already cut out all the material for all the stockings and was about to sail into sewing the first one, but who was very glad to be able to call off the dogs, as it were.

But alas for Eileen and Daniela -- their entertainment for the evening vanished into thin air. Not a single drop of blood or yelp of agony...


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