Sunday, December 18, 2016

On the Sixth Day of a Feminine Christmas

This little lady is selling ornaments.  I like to imagine she is at one of those marvelous outdoor European Christmas markets.  I don't believe there are many outdoor markets in my neck of the woods but I love when I can find a local Christmas fair in a school or church in my town.

My elementary school used to hold a Christmas bazaar in early December each year.  It was the best thing next to the holiday itself.  Always at night in the creaky old auditorium in the basement of our 1920's brick school, mothers would push tables end-to-end around the perimeter of the room.  Here they would hawk their wares, most of which was made by us in art classes.  There were colorful felt headbands, elaborate Styrofoam ornaments with pailettes attached by common pins and trimmed with velvet ribbons, and small Santa's made from empty aspirin bottles replete with cotton-ball beards.  There was also a candy table with bouquets of candy canes plunged into orange juice cans decorated with red and green rick-rack and crinkly cellophane-wrapped peanut brittle and fudge.  The bake sale table was overflowing with breads, cookies and cakes, all mother-baked.  I always enjoyed visiting the White Elephant table for its odd-duck but charming bric-a-brac  It was a bright and festive night.

When I was a girl, my maternal grandfather was the general manager of Filene's Basement -   THE Filene's Basement - the original in Boston.  This meant occasional boxes sent to our house filled with clothes. They were usually garments that were left-over after the automatic mark-downs had ended but it was still pretty nice stuff.  I can't say I was pleased with the black jodhpurs that came once but I loved the sheepskin coat and stir-up pants I found along with them.  For the most part, my grandfather was spot-on with what went into the boxes, especially the day my mother opened one with a beautiful grey, magenta, and mushroom tweed Chanel suit for her.  It even had the weighted chain sewn into the hem of the jacket although it was torn off on one side.  Along with the suit came fuchsia alligator pumps which were a perfect match.

In those days, even a simple school fair had mothers turning out in their finery and so the Christmas bazaar was the perfect occasion for my mother to debut her new suit and shoes.  I'll never forget how pretty she looked behind my class' craft table with her hair bobby-pinned up into a French twist.  She was trim and feminine with the jacket buttoned close and the shiny pumps in their unusual color, on her dainty feet.  As we merrily raced from table to table with fudge on our fingers, my mother - chic and composed - worked the Christmas bazaar for our school.  Even as a second-grader, I felt proud.


  1. One of the few distinct memories I have of the church I grew up in was the Christmas bazaar...full of handmade knitted items, tea cozies, doilies (crocheted with infinitesimal stitches!), and the children's corner, full of delightful, impractical goodies like bedazzled OJ cans doing their best to impersonate pencil jars. Now, who uses pencils anymore? But my father used the one I made for him, even though it was pale seagreen with pearls and sequins on it. That's why these fairs were such fun! I love the image of your mom in her Chanel, dazzling the smalltown folk with her urbane and urban chic! Fun!!!