Memories are timeless treasures of the heart. -Unknown
Sometimes I think that we open some of our very best Christmas presents long before the big day arrives. For me, there’s something special about unpacking all the Christmas décor, ornaments, and trinkets that I’ve collected through the years. Every December we lug the boxes upstairs and like little kids open each with a sense of excitement–kind of like running in to an old friend or finding something that was once lost. My kids (even as a tween and teen) exclaim, “Remember this!” Or they’ll question me, “Why did you save that?” and “How long has this been in the family?” One of the things that touches my heart most are the tales behind these treasured keepsakes which leads me to my favorite comment, “Tell me the story about this one!” Then I get to share the story behind baby ornaments, school crafts from days gone by, or the Hallmark Yoda figurine that adorns the tree every year. It was actually this ornament (and all the hub bub about the recently released Star Wars movie) that led me to write this post as I chronicle three of my favorite Spencer Family Christmas stories.
Let me begin with the FACT that my mother-in-law is far more popular than I could ever hope to be. I think even complete strangers would nominate her homecoming queen should we ever find ourselves in high school again (despite the fact that we graduated in different decades and states!) From hello, people just love her. Actually, you don’t even have to speak to her to like her…I’ve witnessed countless strangers ask her for directions, information, and just start chatting with her without any prompting whatsoever. She just has one of those faces that says, “Let’s be lifelong friends.” It’s a rare gift (my husband has the same one,) and I just can’t help but sit back and marvel. This sort of thing comes in handy when you shop at Hobby Lobby…or at least that’s what I’ve concluded whenever Karen is around. And Hobby Lobby is the scene for this Christmas memory.
My daughter Casey was just a little, bitty thing at the time…probably 3 or 4ish. She didn’t mind sitting in shopping carts especially if grandma was “driving.” While I can’t recall why we went into Hobby Lobby that day (although I don’t think one has to have a specific reason for going into Hobby Lobby because who doesn’t LOVE that store?) There we were in the fabric section when my mother-in-law spotted these cute, matching, mother/daughter gingerbread aprons. Displayed on mannequins for all to see, they were just perfect for Casey and I. Karen pointed them out to me…suggesting that we really needed to have THOSE Christmas aprons. I agreed, but didn’t think much of it because the Christmas apron pattern was situated in such a way as to suggest that you had to make the aprons yourself (this is a craft store after all.) I believe Karen’s response was, “Nonsense,” as she took them off the mannequin and put them in the cart. We continued our shopping and eventually landed at the check out.
I have to admit that it was pretty funny watching the cashier search the aprons for the price tag, but what was even better was the look on her face when Karen explained how she got the aprons. I imagine that it’s a pretty rare occurrence when someone takes a sample product off a mannequin and then proceeds to try to purchase it. The cashier explained that sample items are not for sale…they are SAMPLE items. Karen wasn’t deterred in the least. She asked the cashier to get someone from the fabric section to come to the check out stand so we could discuss the purchase of THOSE aprons further. I’m pretty sure at this point we were holding up the check out line, but still we waited. Finally, someone came up. She agreed with the cashier that the aprons were samples and not for sale which led to a conversation about what actually happens to the samples at Hobby Lobby when they are no longer needed. It was interesting…typically the items are returned to the person who made them, stowed away for display at a later date, or just given away to someone who works at the store. Karen reiterated that she would like to purchase them as a Christmas gift for me and my daughter…telling about her visit to Kansas from California, my love for baking, and Casey’s fondness for Rachael Ray (but that’s another blog.) Clearly, Karen had won over the woman from the sewing department and a few seconds later we were exchanging phone numbers and my mother-in-law had arranged for the store to call me (after Christmas) to pick up the aprons when they were no longer needed. They agreed the aprons could be purchased for $5 each and all I had to do was keep a hold of this little piece of paper until the pick up date arrived. SCORE!
In the back of my mind, I wondered if they would really call. I mean, Karen had already returned to California, no money had changed hands at that point, and the note from the store (scrawled on the back of a receipt) hardly seemed like a binding contract. Yet, there it was…a few days after Christmas…a message on the phone from Hobby Lobby saying that I could come and pick up the aprons from the sewing counter in the store. Well, Casey and I hot-footed it over there and sure enough, THOSE Christmas aprons were right there waiting. They were even cuter than I remembered and Casey was so excited! We proceeded to the check out full of smiles…and then….
The cashier (the same one from our previous visit to the store with Karen,) looked at the aprons and frowned. FROWNED. She looked at me said, “You can’t have these.” I was taken aback as she explained that she couldn’t possibly sell these aprons to me because the sweetest woman from California had come to the store before Christmas and she wanted to buy them for her granddaughter and daughter-in-law. She repeated the whole encounter to me and I couldn’t help but laugh…which threw her off a bit. I pulled out the little note and told her that I was with Karen that day. I wish I could have captured her smile! She was so delighted that we were going to have THOSE aprons after all! She said she remembered my mother-in-law very well and although she didn’t recognize me (surprise?) she didn’t think she had the heart to sell them to anybody else after meeting Karen that December day. Karen had used her “gift” to secure a truly, special gift for Casey and I.
Every year at Christmas time we pull THOSE aprons out–our cookie baking wouldn’t be the same without them! This year when Casey put hers on we realized just how tiny the apron really is. Casey is 10 now and while the apron still fits it’s clear to see that she’s not a preschooler any more, but that same sweet smile spreads across her face when she wears it. THOSE Christmas aprons have become a part of our family’s Christmas tradition and I love to tell the story.
It is in the kitchen where the warmth of shared memories, laughter and life create a recipe that spans the generations. -unknown
Stay tuned for Christmas Trilogy, Part 2: Deck the Halls with Christmas Spew, Falalalala Lalalala