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Emily Morrison is an English teacher at Bucksport High School, a writer, and a mother.
As surely as we could count on sweet baby Jesus’s birth, the women in my family could count on new skivvies for Christmas from my grandmother.
What made her annual gift even more miraculous was how we unwrapped these unmentionables in front of God and everybody. Husbands, siblings, uncles, aunts, cousins and parents, all looked on with expectant glee as we opened our Hanes Her Way panties from Penney’s.
The menfolk chuckled and said, “Well, what about that? It’s new underwear, mother/wife/daughter/sister.”
In turn, as they opened their flannel shirts and socks, the womenfolk chuckled and said, “Oh, just what you needed, father/husband/son/brother.”
This scenario played over and over again through the Christmases of my childhood.
As time went by, my grandmother’s gifts progressed to bras, or “bandaids,” as my father affectionately called them.
Later, when pimples and puberty happened, he called them “slingshots.”
“Hold it up, Emmy. Show us what you got!” my family would clamor.
“Oh, it’s another slingshot!” Dad would joke.
But his jest brought no offense. What else is a bra if not harmless device to keep me in and the rest of the world out?
A few weeks before I turned 21, my grandmother passed away unexpectedly. Not surprisingly, she’d done all of her holiday shopping before Thanksgiving, and her presents were wrapped and stacked neatly in the corner of her bedroom.
No one felt much like celebrating that year. Meme was our nucleus. She brought every cell in our family together. Gathering at her house on Christmas eve was the one tradition we all obeyed religiously.
Instead of swapping presents and having a meal together, we decided to open her gifts separately in our own homes.
As I gently unveiled her final present to me, I’m not sure why I was surprised to find three pairs of bold, Hawaiian print underwear and an ornament inside — a picture of us sitting on her couch during one of our last visits.
I wept. I’m still weeping.
In the 20 years since, my mother has steadfastly picked up where my grandmother left off, giving my daughters and I surprisingly skimpy skivs every Christmas.
Isn’t that beautiful? I’m 42, and I’ve never purchased my own undergarments. Doesn’t that bowl you over with a feather?
Sure, I’ve bought my daughters, son and hubby underwear, but I’ve never had to walk into a Walmart and plunk my own panties down on the counter.
To me, there’s something so lovely in this, so wonderfully life affirming that the women in my life have loved me so well and that the men who’ve loved me have joined them in making this love normal.
I want to thank them.
I want to patch together all the underwear I’ve ever received and make some giant underwear quilt and spread it out on my sofa and say, “There, isn’t that special?”
Friends will walk into my home and see the new blanket and ask, “Where did you get such a charming throw?”
“Oh, that?” I’ll say. “That’s all my old underwear. It’s a family heirloom.”
They’ll nod and laugh and be disturbed, but not my relatives, not my uncles, aunts, cousins, parents and sister.
“What gorgeous Fruit of the Loom,” they’ll chuckle, and we’ll miss our mothers together.