Friday, December 29, 2006

Christmas Party, the fifth

The wife and I attended the Christmas party for my writing workshop last night. For the past few years it's been held at the bed & breakfast run by one of our members, everyone brings great food and wine and a fine time is had scarfing it down. Then, afterward, we have readings of some of our latest material or Christmas related stuff. This year, though, our b&b member has sold his b&b and so we had to have it at a local tea-dispensing establishment, where we dined on heavy `horse's doovers' and then did the readings.

At the end, Linda, our nefarious leader, asked us for our best Christmas memories of things we found in our Christmas stockings. Most of our class is of an age where they can remember being terribly excited to receive fruit in their stocking. We think nothing today of popping down to the market for a nice pineapple, but such exotic conveniences are a relatively recent thing, even in this country, particularly in rural areas of my state. My family never did much with stockings, growing up, so I had no memories of that. However, I did speak of a relatively recent Christmas memory of a gift I still treasure.

In the summer of 1980 I saw my first episode of the British science fiction show Doctor Who. It was an episode somewhere in the middle of the story "Revenge of the Cybermen." I was instantly transfixed by the universe presented to me, its chief resident, the Doctor, his lovely companion Sarah Jane Smith and, to a far lesser extent, his other companion Harry Sullivan. I was hooked from that moment and hungrilly sought out all things Doctor Who, from the books about the show, to the novelizations, to magazine articles, to the comics and to, eventually, the toys.

Though I didn't quite vocalize it at the time, what I wanted most in the world as a 4th grader was a Doctor Who scarf just like the one worn by Tom Baker on the show. (Yeah, I know, there were like 5 of them.) It was such a monstrous thing in both length and color scheme, but I adored the show and therefore adored the fashion sense of its characters. At the time, I didn't even consider that I might one day have an actual scarf like it. That sort of thing was only found on TV, as far as my 9 year old brain was concerned. Instead, I borrowed a muffler from my dad's then girlfriend, Nell, which I still have not returned. It looked nothing like the Doctor's scarf, being white and with tied off tassles on the end, but it was all I had and I wore it habitually.

Time travel ahead a decade or so. My friend Joe and I took a weekend trip to Hotlanta and happened to find a Nerd Shop, somewhere on the outskirts of the city. We were nearly finished with our shopping and were on the way to the counter to check out when there, lying coiled in a basket like a multi-colored snake, we spyed a single Doctor Who scarf. It was a thing of beauty and we both coveted it. However, because there was only one scarf and two of us, neither of us could purchase it for fear of drawing the eternal jealous ire of the other. If we had bought it, we would have had to work out some kind of time share deal and that seemed unwieldy. Later, I was able to search out a knitting pattern for such a scarf on a Doctor Who Usenet newsgroup, but I didn't know anyone who could knit.

Time travel ahead another decade. I'm married to a wonderful woman who had the good fortune to have been given birth by another wonderful woman, my Ma-In-Law. Ma, I learned early on, is a crafty soul who can knit all sorts of yarny goodness, if of a mind. It took me a couple of years, but slowly it dawned on me that here was a gal who COULD knit and who loved me enough that she might do me up a scarf if I asked real sweet. On Thanksgiving, in 2002, I even brought the subject up to my wife, Ashley, and asked if she thought Ma might be willing. Ashley said, no way and that a Doctor Who scarf would take forever to knit and Ma just didn't have that kind of time.

One short month later, a day or so from Christmas, we were back in North Carolina visiting family for a day before heading toward Mississippi. I was sitting in a chair, watching TV when Ashley and Ma approached carrying a double lined grocery bag, tied off by its straps. They passed it to me and stood smiling down. I took it, not even suspecting what might be inside. As I was trying to untie the straps, I caught a glimpse of knitting through the top and instantly knew what it was. Deep inside me, the 4th grade version of me snapped to attention and I began clapping my nuts N bolts stained forearms together in pure 9 year old glee. At long long last, I had my scarf. And a beautiful scarf it was, 17 feet of green and tan and brown and orange--just fantastic! Ma said it was the ugliest thing she'd ever created, but she was glad I liked it. I wrapped myself up in its length and soaked in the coolness of the very concept.

"You're gonna sleep with that thing, tonight, aren't you?" Ashley asked.

"Hell, yes, I'm going to sleep with it!" I said.

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