Written by Diane Tolliver
Molly followed the hostess to her table. She was the first one to arrive, so she took some time to look around her. This was her first time at this restaurant, and she was curious about the décor. The restaurant was inside what was an old farmhouse that had been converted into a small hotel and restaurant. The interior was a mixture of wide-planked floors, sparkling chandeliers, lace curtains, silk wallcoverings and lots of chintz. It was beautiful and the Christmas decorations had been skillfully blended into the background.
She noted that most of the patrons in the dining room were women, with a few businessmen scattered among the tables of the lunching ladies. The place was obviously popular with the senior set though there were some tables with younger women such as Molly and her yet to arrive friends.
As Molly sipped her iced tea, she focused her attention on a table across the room. Seated at the table were three, white-haired women. It was obvious from their body language and their laughter that they were good friends. Molly surmised their average age was eighty but none of them seemed to be slowed down by living for eight decades.
Molly’s attention was suddenly drawn to the one lady, who had a beautiful white pixie cut and appeared to be the leader of the three. She was wearing a lovely red and white sweater that was decorated with poinsettias. It had been paired with black slacks and sparkly red flats. This lady knew how to dress for a holiday luncheon.
Before she knew it, Molly was drawn into memories of her past and her mother. She remembered a Christmas many, many years ago when Molly had given her mother a Christmas sweater. She wished it had been a gift of thoughtful intentions, but it had been a gift of exasperation as Molly struggled to figure out what to buy for her own mother. The salesclerk at Dillards had suggested the sweater and though Molly thought it was a lame idea, she had none of her own, so she acquiesced and handed the clerk her credit card. To compensate for the gift inside, Molly paid to have the present professionally giftwrapped.
Little did Molly know that when her mother, who carefully removed the ribbon and paper to save for future use, opened the box she would be thrilled with its contents. She gently removed the sweater and held it up for everyone to admire.
The sweater was ivory and embroidered on the bottom of the sweater and on the sleeves were small, white snowflakes. A large Christmas tree was embroidered on one side of the bodice and on the other side was a stack of wrapped gifts. Clear, bugle beads had been sprinkled all over to give the sweater some holiday sparkle.
Molly’s mother loved it and quickly put it on. She twirled around so everyone could get a good look. With tear-filled eyes, Molly’s mother hugged Molly and told her that she loved her sweater and felt like it was a hug from Molly.
With those few words, the tradition began.
Every Christmas from that one to the last one before her mother died, Molly did her best to find the most beautiful and unique Christmas sweaters to give to her mother. It was one of the few times that Molly saw her mother excited over a gift. Even as her mother’s health began to fail and she had to give up her house and move into an assisted-living facility, no one dared suggest that the collection of Christmas sweaters be downsized.
When the family would go visit anytime between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, Molly’s mother could be found wearing one of her Christmas sweaters. In fact, she had quite the reputation among the other residents at the care facility.
Molly recalled how hard it had been for she and her sister to pack up their mother’s sweaters after their mother had died. The last sweater had not even been removed from its gift box. Her mother had been too ill to try it on, so Molly just held it up for her mother to admire. She had smiled and with a frail, shaking hand had touched the soft material.
In the end, Molly and her sister decided with the administrator to donate the collection of Christmas sweaters to the other women living at the facility. They knew that their mother would like the idea of sharing something that had given her such joy.
As they walked out of the building, Molly commented to her sister that she wouldn’t be surprised to learn that their mother had insisted to St. Peter that her angel wings had to fit tight enough so they didn’t wrinkle her Christmas sweater. Her sister laughed and agreed.
Looking up Molly was surprised to see her two friends standing next to her. They commented that Molly seemed to be deep in thought. Molly nodded her head and said she had been admiring the Christmas sweater of the lady seated across the room and that had made her wonder where she could find one just like it.
Her friends looked at each other and then at Molly. They weren’t sure if Molly was joking or if she was serious. But Molly didn’t care if her friends thought she was crazy. In her heart, Molly felt her mother’s urging that she wrap herself in the loving embrace of a Christmas sweater.