The Magic in Memories by Liz Flaherty

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One of my most loved parts of Christmas—and there are many—is the memories that emerge from virtually every season. The one I’m about to relate is probably my favorite of them all. I’ve been telling the story for…well, a little over 40 years, so you may have heard it before. My apologies if you have.

I’m what’s known in the stitching world as a “sewist.” This term was coined because saying you’re a sewer looks like…well, you can see what it looks like. Other than writing, sewing is my very favorite productive thing to do. I make quilts, I sew for the children’s hospital, I put together Christmas things I’m not sure anyone really wants but they take because I think they know a piece of my heart comes with it. I spend way too much money in fabric stores and my stash is…oh, it’s mountainous.

It hasn’t always been so. I hated (and was terrible at) home economics, hated my mom’s treadle sewing machine, and never, ever, EVER wanted to sew anything.

Ahem. At some point in early marriage-parenthood years, a friend gave me an ancient electric sewing machine that went forwards and backwards. Sometimes. And…I don’t know, there was something about it that drew me. I began sewing, teaching myself in fits and starts.

Segue to Christmas of 1975. My daughter Kari was nearly four, and she loved Holly Hobby. No, I mean really, she LOVED her. She had Holly Hobby wallpaper, dolls, and dishes. I wanted her to have a long Holly Hobby dress, too, but couldn’t find one within the Santa budget. I did find some fabric, though. Yellow, with Holly Hobbies all over it. It was so pretty and I bought it. Cut it out wrong and bought some more.

There was never enough time to go around in those days, so I ended up on Christmas Eve, sitting at the dining room table and making the dress while Duane assembled little-boy toys and watched television. Long after the toys were assembled, I was still sewing. The machine was giving me fits. I was exhausted. Tears dribbled onto the fabric.

Duane, who watches television every waking moment—I’ve always said if I had a rival in our marriage, it was a remote control—turned it off at about ten and came to sit at the table with me. “Can I help?”

“No. Thank you.”

“Coffee?”

“Oh, yes.”

I sewed and drank coffee until midnight, re-sewing where the machine skipped stitches. I gathered. Ripped out.

“Here. Open this.” Duane thrust a package at me. It was a little sewing case, the tools inside including a sharp seam-ripper. I made good use of it. Cried some more. Sewed. He sat with me.

“Why don’t you open—” he started.

“No. Thank you.” He was trying to make me feel better. I knew that.

We drank more coffee, being careful not to spill any on the fabric. I sewed, ripped out, wept.

It was after 2:00 AM when he folded the dress in tissue paper, put it in a box, and wrapped it in Holly Hobby wrapping paper. We stacked the sewing mess into a corner—we’d need the table in the morning—and went to bed, sleeping like the dead for the three or four hours until the kids woke.

The dress fit Kari. It was beautiful. She still has it. I also still have the sewing machine that was under the tree the next morning, the one my husband wanted me to open the night before, although it’s a spare machine now.

I still have Duane, too, and I have never forgotten how he sat at that table with me until the wee hours, laughing and talking and handing me tissues. That was the real present.

In Heartwarming Holiday Wishes, Liz Flaherty contributed Miracle on Joyful Street. Her latest Harlequin Heartwarming release is Every Time We Say Goodbye.