Flat-footed and Flabbergasted

by Catherine Cameron

By Christmastime of 1977, Bernard and I had been married for five years and were the parents of a lovely two-year-old son.

We had purchased a small house, built a fence to keep the yard safe for little Ian, chosen a dog from the pound and were looking forward to the arrival of the seed catalogs in February so that we could begin planning our garden.  I was looking forward to canning and pickling in the fall and using the jars as Christmas gifts. All was well.

xmas-giftOn December 25, we were in Almonte celebrating Christmas with our families. At the home of my in-laws, Lt. Col. John R. Cameron and Peggy Cameron, presents were stacked high and wide beneath the 10-foot Fraser fir holding majesty in the front hallway at The Glen. Such abundance was somewhat unusual to me but I respected my husband’s family and endeavoured  to enjoy the festivities with equal enthusiasm. Presents were unwrapped, cooed over, held and caressed and many thanks were exchanged. It was my turn. I was given a present to unwrap from my mother-in-law, known in the family as Gami.  She was watching with a sharp eye so I knew that it must be something special.

I unwrapped the paper to find a box. Inside the box was more tissue. Could this really be the one thing that I had been hoping for but was too shy to even mention?? Finally, I unearthed the treasure and was gobsmacked.  Completely and totally speechless. I turned it around, felt it, even sniffed it and rubbed it against my cheek.  Helpless, I turned to Bernard for clues and he appeared as dumbfounded as I.

I fumbled with an opening, “Why, gosh, Gami, thank you so much.”

“Oh I just knew you would love this gift!” she responded, “Especially with what’s coming”.

Still confused, I knew one thing – I wasn’t pregnant and this gift would not be something to swaddle a baby in.

Still searching for an appropriate response, I threw the ball back into her court and asked “Whatever made you think of such a gift?”

“Well, everytime I got out of the bath and was getting dressed, I would think of you both and put some aside if it no long was of any use to me.”

Oh dear God, that certainly didn’t help.

She added “Some of them, I even picked up at the Hub”.  No help there either. Gami was a founding member of the Hub and many things came home from there in her capacious bags filled with extra mitts, toques and scarves for our outdoor hockey games on the creek. Now I was up the creek, metaphorically speaking.

“Um….I can certainly see why you thought of us”, I responded, placing emphasis on the “us”, so that Bernard would pick up the spousal red flag I was madly, but silently, waving.

“Great colours, Mom – thanks a lot”. I glared at him with a most unChristmas-like expression that said “We’ll speak of this later, my dear” and turned back to the box on my lap, not wishing to offend but still completely baffled.

“I thought you could use them in the summer – especially when it gets really hot and things are growing.”

I think it was the word “hot” that triggered my thoughts.

Suddenly, I made a wild stab, took a deep breath and said “The tomatoes, dahlias and runner beans will certainly appreciate being staked up by these pantyhose.”

“Oh my dear, I just knew they would be the perfect gift for you.”