My mother is German, and even though I am well into my 30s, she still likes to celebrate St. Nicholas' Day with me. Traditionally, in Germany, children set out their shoes, and St. Nicholas fills them with treats and goodies, as well as switches and coal - to remind them to be good. I always put my father's shoes out, because I was a rather greedy child and I wanted more loot then my petite feet allowed for. I always went for his cowboy boots.
Now that I am older, it's hard for us to carry on that particular tradition. However, St. Nicholas' Day is something that we still celebrate, even though I live in Florida and she has retired with my stepdad in Arizona.
So I knew it was coming.
Each year I can count on a few things to be included in my St. Nicholas package. A unique Christmas ornament, a bit of jewelry (earrings always, and either a bracelet or necklace) a check for $100 (I am still a greedy child), a toy for my Jack Russell terrier, Dash, as well as a package of Snausages - again for Dash, although I have been tempted to taste them because he is so insane for them that they must be good - and the dreaded festive sweat shirt.
I am not talking about the holiday "novelty" sweat shirts that you see in sale ads. No, I get something worse.
I suspect she picks them up at flea markets, craft shows, or possibly truck stops. It's a weird thing, because my mom is a fashionista, and is easily the best-dressed woman in her subdivision. She just loses her mind at Christmas.
It's a tradition that began when I moved out on my own, and I would have never believed that it would have carried on this long. They are always pretty big, and I almost think she believes I wear them with candy-cane stirrup pants or leggings with little snowmen on them. They always seem to be a little bit country and I am sure that some of them have been handmade by her friends.
I can remember a three-year period where my sweat shirts were truly tragic. Instead of a collar, one had poinsettia appliques, with red glittery puff paint around the leaves. Another was the same kind of design with holly leaves and berries, although the holly involved green glittery puff paint. The third year was a black sweat shirt with gifts, their ribbons done in a hodgepodge of puffy paint that really had to be seen to be believed. I am of the opinion that my mother and her friend Mo had a Sangria party and made these three shirts in one sitting, just for me. I can almost hear them laughing.
I have developed my own little holiday tradition. When I had roommates, they would cheer like a soccer crowd at the unveiling of the St. Nicholas' Day Sweat Shirt. I'll admit that they had been drinking like a soccer crowd, too - but the showing of the shirt was certainly something we all looked forward to. I still receive e-mails asking, "What did you get this year?"
These days I have discovered a captive audience in my friends and co-workers. I get a nice little crowd around and say, "Can you believe my mom wants me to wear THIS?" and then show off the sweat shirt, to their horror. It's all very theatrical.
So when I went to the post office on Dec. 6, there was my box from St. Nicholas. Inside there was a package of Snausages, a toy for Dash, a gorgeous Venetian glass bracelet and earrings, a very pretty Christmas ornament, a beautiful scarf she knitted for me, a picture of some strange baby - who I assumed to be my stepbrother's son - and my sweat shirt.
She outdid herself this year.
It is easily the most heinous sweat shirt I have ever received. It's white, with the most pathetic-looking terrier in antlers that I have ever seen, with the words, "I've got a . . . CHRISTMAS ATTITUDE!"
To her credit, she got me the Jack Russell because she knows how I love Dash, but he is a much better-looking dog than the one on this sweat shirt.
I had a ball showing it off, and I am glad to say that I was not the only one stunned.
Lately I have been regretting that I threw away some of the earlier holiday horrors, because the truth is that I really do like them, or at least the idea of them. I like being connected to her and still carrying on some sort of Christmas tradition. I like that she can still touch the little girl in me, even if it is the one that rolls her eyes and screeches, "MOM!"
I did wear one of the horrid holiday sweat shirts some years ago. I was living in Washington, D.C., it was cold, and all my other sweat shirts were dirty. I did not leave the house.