I welcome friend and fellow writer Janet Lunder Hanafin to share the memories that evoke the holidays in her heart.
I’ve heard of families who spend all of Christmas day sitting around in their pajamas. That wouldn’t be my family, but sometimes I have wished it so. I am a grandmother now, and pajamas take up more of my Christmas effort than my five grandchildren would ever imagine.
My own grandmother had a dozen grandchildren, and every Christmas I can remember, each of us got a new pair of pajamas—flannel pajamas, that wonderful, soft, comfortable, comforting, cozy, cuddly fabric that seems nonexistent these days. Nobody worried about whether we would come in contact with a Christmas candle and immolate ourselves, so our pajamas didn’t have to fit like a second skin or be treated with some death-inducing chemical that was guaranteed to give at least our parents nightmares. The little kids who got pajamas with feet didn’t have rubber treads on the bottom. They took their chances with slipping on linoleum or pine wood floors, and learned to walk carefully.
Every year the pajamas were all different. Even my twin cousins, boys almost a year older than I, got the same style in different colors, the only time I can ever remember them not being dressed identically. The pajamas came often from the JC Penney catalog, sometimes from the local Amundson’s Dry Goods store. We may have seen them, and wondered where Grandma would shop, may even have longed for exactly the pair we received, but we never hinted or suggested, and certainly never asked.
The year that I was in seventh grade, a “big, grown-up girl” if you know what I mean, Grandma decided that I was old enough for a robe. I wish I had never worn it out, or outgrown it. It was the most elegant garment I had ever owned—soft, cozy flannel in an exotic pink, gray and white print. The mandarin collar and cuffs on the three-quarter sleeves were trimmed in hot pink corduroy. It had patch pockets with corduroy piping, and square pink buttons. I wore it when I went to slumber parties (the precursor of sleepovers). We seldom slept, so I could wear my robe from 10:00 p.m. popcorn until pancakes in the morning served by a bleary-eyed mother who, if she was really lucky, had managed to doze off between 2:00 and 4:00 a.m.
And after that, Grandma always gave me a nightgown, still flannel, but meant for a mature young lady, until the year that Grandpa died. I was in high school, my sisters still in junior high and not grown up enough for either robes or nightgowns. That year my grandma knitted mittens for all of us, and watched us open her gifts with tears in her eyes.
I hugged her and she whispered, “Oh, sweetheart, I couldn’t afford so many pajamas this year.” We all understood and were only a little disappointed.
Years later when our son came home and brought along a young woman whom he thought he would marry, I had to do some fast Christmas shopping. What was a little personal but not too personal, expensive enough but not too, showed some thought but didn’t look as if I’d shopped the entire mall or lain awake all night thinking about it? Something that didn’t read more into the relationship than might already be there? Pajamas, of course, flannel pajamas. Comfortable, warm, but not seductive. Pale blue with white snowflakes for a girl with blue eyes and blond hair. They were perfect.
And some more years later when he brought home the young woman whom he really would marry, I zipped out again and bought flannel pajamas, this time red ones with white snowflakes. Perfect again! She still has them.
Our granddaughter was born six weeks before Christmas. Her first Christmas present from Grandpa and Grandma was a little red sleeper with feet and a tiny reindeer on the chest.
We’ve added three grandsons and a very special great niece to the mix, and I start shopping for pajamas in September, guessing at sizes, and wondering what will go on sale a week after I spend an exorbitant amount for the cutest ones yet. One year Granddaughter #1 got Hannah Andersson snowman pajamas (on sale) that were such a hit she threw a two-year-old tantrum whenever they were in the laundry. Over the years Spiderman, Angry Birds, Hello Kitty, and the girls from “Frozen” have found their way into toddler-sized beds. Flannel has fallen from fashion, and the chosen fabrics are fleece and thermal weave. The kids are fussier now. One likes feet, another wants the legs to fit tight around the ankle. One doesn’t like buttons because they catch in her hair.
This year the chosen themes are polar bears, reindeer, a snowboarder, and a mouse for the littlest dancer in the Nutcracker. Merry Christmas, my little sweethearts. Sleep tight! And no, you can’t sit around in your pajamas all of Christmas Day.
Janet Lunder Hanafin grew up on a South Dakota farm, transplanted herself to St. Paul, MN for college, and grew deep roots. Her writing has appeared in local and metro-wide publications including the St. Paul Almanac. She and her husband have two children and four grandchildren (all above average) and enjoy the companionship of two very fine cats. The cats do not have pajamas.