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DIY Holidays

Monday, December 12, 2016
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DIY Holidays

The thing that most bonded Will and I was our shared love for working with our hands. When we first met, Will was converting vintage road bikes into single speed bikes to resell back on Craig’s list. I was always amazed at how much profit he could make when reselling these bikes to Chicago’s hipsters. We spent many nights sitting in his kitchen, drinking beers and talking politics or current events, while he took apart and reconfigured bikes. On many occasions, Will helped me pin together quilts on the kitchen table and if we were sitting and watching TV I was always knitting or spinning wool into yarn on my treadle-powered spinning wheel.

So, When Will and I started building our holiday traditions there was no doubt that they would include homemade decor. When we were ready to get our first Christmas tree together, Will found an adorable family farm near Valparaiso, Indiana where we could go pick out a tree and cut it down ourselves. To pay for the tree you entered an adorable wooden barn, complete with a wood burning stove and hot cocoa. Once we got it home, I refused to hang any store-bought ornaments on the tree; I insisted that we could only have a popcorn and cranberry garland. Unfortunately, the task of making this garland was much more difficult and labor intensive than I had imagined, and our tree was only about halfway hung with garland before I ran out of steam. Will thought that in the future we might have to buy ornaments, while I argued we just needed a smaller tree next time around.

I also started hand knitting stockings for Will and I after we moved into our first place together. I got two adorable and timeless patterns, and started to work. Will’s first reaction once they began to take shape was that these stockings would look great in front of the fire place at his Mom’s log cabin in the woods in South Carolina.  He insisted that I needed to get two more patterns for his mom and uncle to finish out our set. I resisted a little at first, when I bought these first two stocking patterns I had imagined that they would eventually be followed by matching stockings for our future children as our family grew. But at the time we didn’t have a fire place, and when Will found a matching stocking pattern with an actual cabin on it for his mom, I quickly gave in. I worked on these stockings in the time leading up to the last two Christmases I celebrated with Will. But when Will died, I put them away, and was too overwhelmed with grief to continue my work on them.

But in the months leading up to the past couple of Christmases I dug them out and got back to work. This year, the fourth Christmas since losing Will, our set of four adorable stockings are finally done! And I’ll be flying out to visit Will’s mom Dot and his uncle Tom this coming Saturday ready to show off the finished products. And I am now so happy that Will convinced me, all those years ago, that these stockings were meant for Dot’s cabin in the woods. I also realize that when I get down there, and I take out the stockings, there will be plenty of tears. And though I will insist on hanging the stockings for at least one photo op, I also realize it may still be too soon for us.

Dot hasn’t decorated for the holidays since Will passed, and I know this will be hard for her. But I think we also need to recognize that we are still a family in Will’s absence. The fact that I am flying out to visit Dot and Uncle Tom in South Carolina, four Christmas’s after Will’s death shows that a family was built and had remained intact even after Will is gone. And this little family should have their stockings hanging by the fire.


Valerie - so sweet and so heartfelt - there may be tears, but there will also be warmth in all your hard work. Beautiful story - happy holidays.

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