See this shirt? It is at least 20 years old! Every September our church has what we call the Harvest Dinner & Auction. I have been attending this church my whole life and the Harvest Dinner & Auction is the best part of fall! We have an amazing meal of turkey with all the fixins' and pie. Afterwards we have an auction with proceeds to benefit the church, of course. The auction items are often handmade by members of our church family. This shirt was an auction item 20-some years ago! My mom bought it at the auction. It was made by a dear friend, Shelley. Shelley is a very talented and creative lady. This is one of the shirts that you'd iron on the design then outline it and embellish it with fabric paint. I don't remember how much my mom paid for it, but it was probably a pretty penny! Often the handmade items sell for ridiculously high amounts as people want to make a nice donation to the church. For example, folks can easily spend a $100 on a homemade pie or jar of jelly! The idea is to help the church.
My mom wore this shirt at Christmastime for YEARS! Just looking at this shirt puts me in the Christmas spirit. My mom would wear it to do her holiday baking, to Christmas shop, and to wrap gifts. She'd wear it to clean the house as we'd get ready for family to visit for Christmas festivities. She would wear it to choir practice at church as the singers prepared their Christmas music. She would have it on as she carried boxes of decorations up from the basement and as we all carefully unwrapped each ornament to hang on the tree. My sisters and I have all worn the shirt too throughout the years and it has made its appearance numerous times in the photos of Christmas past.
A couple years ago my mom announced she was giving the shirt to Goodwill. WHAT? My sisters and I protested! No way could she give it away. It was a part of our Christmas memories, it was part of US! She laughed at our protests but said she hadn't worn it in several years, it had served her well and it was time to send it on to someone else. We continued to argue that she keep it. She said one of us could keep it. We said "Well...no...we just want you to keep it!" Again she laughed and began to pack it up. I couldn't let it happen. I couldn't lose this piece of family history. I said I'd take it!
It has been at the top of my closet ever since - much more of a sentimental object than an actual piece of my wardrobe. However, the glittery star on the top of the bunny's wand seemed to shine down on me as I stood in my closet looking for something to wear last week. It was calling to me. I took it off the shelf and put it on with a pair of jeans and some slippers. I was immediately in "mom Christmas mode!" I felt festive and full of energy! The shirt must be magic!
The first day I wore it, I straightened the house, scrubbed the floor (on my hands and knees, Cinderella-style), made several batches of holiday sweets, wrapped gifts, caught up on laundry, and added some more Christmas decor to the house. I wore it to the post office to drop of the last of our Christmas cards to be mailed out. I had it on when I plugged in the Christmas lights as it began to get dark. I had it on after the kids went to bed when I relocated Ricky, our Elf-On-the-Shelf. I felt so productive! At the end of the day I was tired but happily satisfied with all I'd accomplished - thanks to the shirt, of course! At the end of the day, I folded it back up and stuck it back on the shelf without even throwing it in the laundry. The next morning...same thing - I threw it on with jeans and my slippers and off I went! Mommy Christmas mode again! I made a pot of soup, cleaned the kids' bedrooms, cleaned the toilets, and gave the dogs baths then dressed them in their matching Christmas sweaters all the while singing songs from the kids' church Christmas program! I then scrubbed the shower better than I ever have, I think. Both Claire (4) and Oliver (2) stepped in the bathroom at different times and said "What are you doing?" I said "Cleaning the shower!" They each stood there staring at me in bewilderment. I said "You haven't seen mama do this much, have you?"
At some point during the week, my husband was throwing in a load of laundry and asked if the shirt was dirty. I looked at it and said "No. I don't think this shirt gets dirty." I see in these pictures there are stains - not sure if they are left from my mom or if I did it - off to the side by the sheep. At the end of the week, I did wash it. And, even after 20+ years of wash and wear, it washed up good. The sweatshirt itself must be amazing quality. It is thick and heavy, cozy. And, like I said, 20+ years of being worn and washed...the little bunny, sheep, and teddy bear are still hanging on perfectly! The puffy red hearts and sparkly snowflakes have stood the test of time as well. The kids hadn't ever seen the shirt before this year. A few different times throughout the week one of the kids, while sitting on my lap, would pick at the hearts on it. Oliver said "Oh! Hearts?!?" He said it kind of like a question. Claire thought the sparkly snowflakes were beautiful!
Though, certainly not something you'd see on the best-dressed list for 2012, I also think the shirt is beautiful. It symbolizes to me the thoughtfulness, the selflessness, the creativity, and the love my mom has always put into Christmas every year. It symbolizes the inevitable "a-mother's-work-is-never-done" that every mama faces and even more so at Christmastime. It reminds me that my mom stayed festive and cheery despite all the work involved in making Christmas magic happen for her three children. While making her lists and checking them twice each year, I'm sure my own mother didn't give any thought to what affect the shirt may have been having on us girls or even the example she was setting for us as future mothers. I love this shirt. I love that my mom wore it to meet all the demands of the holiday season all of those years and in doing so, create amazing Christmas memories for me. It is much more to me than a garment or even a one-time donation to our church. This shirt symbolizes a mother's love - my mother's love for me and hopefully, my own three munchkins will see this shirt in the future and think about the love that is behind all the Christmas magic they feel every year. I don't know if my own daughter will want the shirt when she is a mom. I can attest to the fact though that despite how tired and worn out you are, the shirt somehow does give you a festive lift and puts a little more fa-la-la in all that needs to get done! My little Claire may not want to don the shirt herself in the future but she will see me wearing it every Christmas during her childhood!Sorry shoppers, but this shirt will never find its way to Goodwill. Not if I can help it.