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Creative Nonfiction Fiction

Can't shop, won't shop. The phrase keeps going through my mind. Can't shop, won't shop. Can't shop, won't shop. I'm not trying to convince myself. I'm already there. This year nobody is going to suck me into putting all the big box stores back in the black. That's not my responsibility, you know.


The question is, where did that phrase come from? I think I'm my own echo? Yes, I am aware of the book Won’t Stop, Can’t Stop by Jeff Chang (2005). However, the book is about the hip hop generation and while I may not be a spring chicken, I am also not over the hill. Meaning that I find hip hop rather ho-hum and don't have time to read an entire book about it. I can't attribute the phrase in my head to that.


The phrase also belongs to song titles or maybe versions of the same song, but I actually don't care about that either. Anybody who gets any pleasure out of a Young Gunz song so full of testosterone - the most boring substance in the world - has no need to be in my world. The lyrics are worse than the video. But let's move on from idiocy to something more important. One needs to have priorities.


I can't shop because things, people, and situations have been eating away at my meager savings - ones I accumulated by working overtime for over thirty years. You don't need to know that story, either, and I only mention it because I've tried, really tried, to be a hard worker, to do what was right, and to make my parents proud. I succeeded at all three - well with the first and third, but doing what was right ended up somewhere between 60 and 80 percent of the goal. Good enough. Like I said: I tried.


I can't shop because I don't want to. I'm not too old to know that buying, consuming things, is a disease for humans as well as the environment. Therefore, I have declared that for me this is the year of reduce, reuse, recycle. Also important is the fourth R: refuse. The first thing I refuse to do is use that cheap wrapping paper made in parts of the world that don't celebrate Christmas by people who are way underpaid and swallowing all that Red Number 5 dye. Hohoho. Merry Christmas.


I have the idea to put together some things, but it's not the same as regifting. I hope I can bring myself to be creative, to put things or parts of things, into a new form, to avoid buying stuff. Rewrapping something I was given last year is actually boring as well as embarrassing. What makes people think they have to 'give' gifts? Haven't they ever read Little Women and seen what the March family did this time of the year? I envy them so. For them, the thought counted, what people needed counted.


Hopefully my gifts aren't classifiable as 'things'. They will come accompanied by stories, which will be much more useful. If you don't like the stories, you're probably not going to find my gifts useful. Not to mention that some of my gifts will be just stories, meaning that they will be simply something inscribed on paper in longhand (a useless talent nowadays, according to some experts).


Are you still listening? Fine. I'll keep going, because this is not about my trying to please you consumers who expect gifts from me. It is about giving something from the heart. Unfortunately, my heart is in a very different place than the hearts of many people I know (even those close to me). That's why, even without the wrapping paper from Asian places you can't find on a map, the gifts I'm offering are lovely. Think of the Three Kings. You don't have to believe in them, but think about what they are believed to have brought to Bethlehem: nothing in those coffers was going to satisfy or entertain, or even nourish, a newborn child. They intended to honor him and that was how they believed they should do it.


Please! I'm not going all Christian on you. This is about giving, not believing. About thinking, really thinking, about what we offer another person. I have thought long and hard about this, knowing that what you really want probably falls in the realm of cosmetics, clothing, gift certificates, or chocolate. That is too bad.


Even without the cheap wrapping paper that is so thin it rips when you have to put it around packages with sharp corners, don't you think your gift is really lovely? I mean, I made it by hand pretty much. It's a print I made in my studio. Don't you like it? Don't you like the ribbon? It's pretty neat, it looks rustic or something, with all those raw edges. It's from all my extra fabric. I tore it myself out of some remnants from quilting classes. You can reuse the ribbon. If it gets dirty, just wash it by hand, then iron it. It'll be good to go for another gift you might want to give to somebody. That other stuff, made in far-away places, has a shelf life of two minutes. It's good for nothing but throwing in a landfill.


So probably I should explain what I'm making or planning to make. That way, if you really don't want an item, you can tell me and I'll just cross it off my to-do list. You see, despite everything, I actually still have things to do with my life and am not interested in spending hours on useless activities at this stage of the game. Nobody is forcing anything on you.


Moving along, let's get down to specifics. There are so many possibilities from my point of view (which is not yours, I know, but also don't care). Here's a partial list; please check off what interests you and what doesn't. No problem if nothing interests you.


I can make you a mug rug (stupid name, I agree; rhymes aren't everything). Costs nothing because I've got enough scraps to make probably two thousand of them. It's a useful item. Three people have already received one from me and it seems all three mug rugs are being used daily. Don't underestimate the time it took to make it and the fact that it required knowing how to use a sewing machine and select color combinations. 


You may or may not care to know what sewing means to me, because you laugh if I try to tell you about things from my childhood. By the way, do you know where your great grandmother's old Singer is? (I do.) Does it work? Probably.


The mug rug is pretty, though. If you don't want it, I can find a use for it. No worries.


The second thing I thought of is a miniature quilt for your key ring. It's a scrappy quilt, although the name is probably of no interest, because the pieces used are tiny and don't match. Or maybe they do. It was fun to make. I have one myself. Too bad you never wanted to learn to sew. It's one of those things they like to call 'life skills' nowadays, but I learned so long ago, when Home Economics was still a thing in high school or maybe it was junior high (middle school didn't exist yet). You are welcome to sell my machines some day.


I'm thinking you're going to be complaining that two items in a row were sewing-related, so will now go ahead with a crocheted doily that is not just any doily. This one is a true treasure. Why?, you ask. Because, I answer, it is a survivor and is also unique. By this I mean that it has no broken threads in the cotton maze that is its body. That alone is unusual. I also am referring to the color. There is the well-known vintage ecru, but the majority of the doily is made with the oddest blue crochet thread I've ever seen. It's so old, that blue, that it is probably from the 1930s (I'm good at dating certain things). It's a cross between turquoise and ocean foam and dusk and vintage teal. It's one of a kind. I'm guessing it was my great grandmother's handiwork, but am not sure. That would be your great great grandmother, if that matters.


You don't know your great great grandmother's name, but I do. I would gladly tell you if you wanted to know. She was long gone before you were born, but she was also gone before I was. So you might say she's just a memory of a memory, and that's that. Her eight children and three husbands (one a very abusive drunk) are of no interest to anybody. I know about her because of what my mother told me, and she should know, because she was the sole breadwinner in a household of four women, one of whom was your great great grandmother. I wish you knew more about that line of strong, weird women. 


As for the doily, here it is, in all its radiant, rare glory. I wanted to attach it (gently) to a background of another ecru, then frame it. It's a work of art, priceless, deserves to be on a wall. Except maybe you see it differently. You're under no obligation to keep it, but the offer to place it on a fitting background and frame it properly is still there. Just let me know.


There are just a couple more gifts I'd like to run by you, because you're busy and I don't want to take up too much of your time.


Poems. You may or may not be aware of the poems I wrote to you when you were very tiny. I told you about them, but you might not remember and you definitely don't know where those poems are. They are so old now that they are not on my current computer nor in the cloud, but I did have the presence of mind to print them out. The plan is to use nice paper and write them out in cursive. (You will recall my saying more than once that I copied my father's handwriting. Incredible handwriting, especially for a man who had been forced to quit school at sixteen and earn his keep. You don't know what that's like. Your education was happily paid for and you could have kept on studying as long as you wanted.)


The poems are not limited to your first year of life, because I wrote more as the years went by. They might not have been great, but I sent them from my heart to yours. They may have missed the mark a little, but who's to say if I'm the only one who ever saw them? The last time I wrote any poems to you was when I didn't see you for two years because you were busy with your life. A good thing for you to do, of course. I wrote the last time because I was moving to another town, you were unavailable, you had left your room empty of you. I packed stuffed animals, games you never played, clothes, and memories, and wrote nineteen poems. I told you about them, but you never asked to see them. 


Oh, I should mention that writing things by hand that are already printed out on paper and, in the case of the empty nest poems, are also online, is probably a test to see if you can still read cursive. Nowadays they say we have to print everything. I disagree and will write in longhand if I feel like it. You can do whatever you want. I know cursive is not a mystery to you, however.


The last thing I'm offering on this list is something that looks like an X or a cross. Now you know I'm not religious and don't know how to pray, so you're probably not thinking of a cross. It's just an X, a big X, like people use when they sign cards or emails and write OXOXOX. X stands for a kiss. The one I like to give you on the top of your grown-up head but you dislike. I'd never expect you to let me give you a kiss on the cheek, so this is (for me) the next best thing. Funny, I never minded having my mother close enough to hug or kiss me. I wouldn't mind having her here now. 


Your cross is an idea still, not yet made. If you are interested, just let me know if you want it crocheted, quilted, printed, painted, or some other medium. Just not singing, because I can't sing very well.


And there you have it: a puny little list of things that I only had to go into the basement, the attic, my closet, or the studio to find. They aren't what you want, but then you probably don't know what you want, since your dream is simply to see a thousand presents beneath the tree. I'm too old to wrap a thousand presents and too worried about the planet to do it. All I know how to give you are memories of the best kind.


Please accept them. If not all of them, maybe some of them? They came from lives well-lived.


This is something you need to know.

December 04, 2021 01:34

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10 comments

Michael Regan
21:00 Dec 10, 2021

OK - you have me laughing out loud again. Loved "testosterone - the most boring substance in the world" and Red Dye #5 - I had forgotten about that. Here is one more idea for your list - maybe more for the guys - a trivet. A small floor tile (or large wall tile) and four stick on cork feet.

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Kathleen March
14:58 Dec 11, 2021

Glad you liked the humor. It sometimes sneaks in. Trivet is a great suggestion!

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Francis Daisy
11:56 Dec 10, 2021

Absolutely, hands down, best story. I think I want to wrap this up, no, just print it out and stick it in stockings this Christmas. But first, I must look up how to make a mug rug...

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Kathleen March
21:48 Dec 11, 2021

So nice of you to say those things. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-AiaWfYywA

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Francis Daisy
03:14 Dec 12, 2021

Love, love, love! Next, I need to borrow my sewing machine back from my mom so I can make her a mug rug for Christmas! Better yet, I'd love to be able to go to her house for Christmas and make a rug mug WITH her for Christmas. But, alas, not with COVID among us...it's been years since we've celebrated a holiday together and I think I'm just feeling blue. Thank you for sharing the how-to with me.

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Kathleen March
16:14 Dec 12, 2021

So sorry for your separation. I'd do anything to have my mother again. There was often a sewing machine set up on our dining room table and she was extremely talented at sewing, as was my grandmother. She might have thought a mug rug was too simple to make, but would have praised it because I made it. They are very easy and there are different styles, but they are actually quite useful!

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Francis Daisy
01:46 Dec 13, 2021

I'll keep you posted on my trek to find a sewing machine...I'm sure your rug mugs are quite beautiful and anyone who receives one is quite fortunate because it came from you.

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Francis Daisy
03:20 Jan 17, 2022

Kathleen! Okay, so I dug through all of my old posts to find this one. I wanted to let you know that you have been thought about often, and thought about affectionately, even though we have never met. Over the holidays, I was able to meet up with my mother for a couple of days. We spent those two days with her sewing machine, giggling, laughing, and learning together how to make the mug rugs. It took us several hours, lots and lots of stitches and ripping out of stitches, watching and re-watching the video you sent us, and maybe even a littl...

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Jay Stormer
13:56 Dec 04, 2021

Good ideas for this season told in an interesting way.

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Kathleen March
15:00 Dec 04, 2021

Thank you.

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