This story is for AMMC: A Merry Minion Christmas (AMMC-DFQ). Details and submission guidelines can be found here:
- Grandma’s Christmas Sweaters by Marissa Ames
- Ebook: YES
This story is dedicated to Ralinda, Kaylee, and Andee. Merry Christmas! I send you joy, love, laughter, and reasons to never wear those sweaters.
Grandma knitted sweaters every year, from January to November, and gifted them in December. She intertwined yarn into elaborate Christmas trees, stars, and snowy woodland scenes. Grandma’s sweaters reminded me of Care Bears spreading Christmas love with bedazzled belly magic.
Every year, I got a sweater from Grandma. Knowing what lay inside, I tore into the box with practiced enthusiasm. I pulled out the mass of festive yarn and held it up to the light of the Christmas tree, gushing about the love and attention she must have taken, just for me.
Then I tucked the sweater back in the box. Twelve boxes sat in my closet, neatly stacked in the far corner behind my old stuffed animals.
“Grandma’s visiting for a week,” mom told us. “It would be nice if you wore one of those sweaters while she was here.”
I groaned and slumped, but Sarah agreed. Nine-year-olds know nothing about making a stand for fashion.
When Grandma arrived, Sarah waited at the door in a red and green monstrosity. Grandma’s hot pink lips stretched taut over her dentures as she pinched Sarah’s cheeks.
Sarah grabbed Grandma’s wrinkled, spotted hand. “Wanna bake cookies, Gramma?” With that pink smile in place, Grandma waddled into the kitchen after Sarah.
“Where’s your sweater?” mom asked from behind me.
“I’ll wear it closer to Christmas,” I promised.
The second day, Sarah wore a fuzzy white garment bedazzled with blue rhinestone snowflakes as she held Grandma’s yarn. Mom raised her eyebrows as I passed in my t-shirt. I shrugged and moved into the yarn-free zone.
“You’re going to disappoint her,” mom accused the next morning.
I shrugged and continued texting.
“Sarah’s learning how to knit, and you’re ignoring your Grandma. Just wear the sweater, just once.”
“I will,” I whined, annoyed that I had to look up from my phone.
On the fourth day, I lacerated my foot in Sarah’s room. “You left knitting needles on the floor,” I said, picking up the bloody awl. “Where did you get these needles?”
“From Gramma,” she said, coiling yarn around her wrist. “What should I make with this?”
I shook my head. “You’re getting weird,” I said, hobbling away to find a Band-Aid.
Mom wouldn’t leave me alone. “Wear a sweater,” she said, grabbing her hem and stretching it down for emphasis, warping the snowman on the front. “Honestly, what harm could come of wearing one?”
“I don’t know,” I argued between texts. “I can’t risk it.”
Mom rolled her eyes. “Come to dinner.”
“What are we having?” I asked without looking up from my phone.
“Something soft, with lots of fiber,” she said as she shuffled out of my room.
I woke at 4am to the aroma of chocolate chip cookies. I rubbed my eyes and followed the smell to the kitchen. Decked in boughs of sweater holly, Sarah removed a tray from the oven. On the table, hundreds of cookies cascaded onto the lace runner. She had to have been baking for hours to acquire that many.
I squeaked, “What are you doing? How long have you been baking?”
“Oh, don’t bother her,” Mom said from behind me. I turned to see her sway past me, wearing slippers and a housecoat, with a red Santa sweater overtop of the coat.
Sarah set the cookie tray on a trivet. “Eat some,” she said. “You need some meat on those bones.” I flinched back as she tried to pinch my cheek.
On day six, I opened Sarah’s underwear drawer to borrow a pair of socks. She wouldn’t miss one pair, and I’d have it washed and back in the drawer by tomorrow. The drawer rattled as I pulled it out. My mouth fell open.
Instead of socks, Sarah’s drawer was filled with knitting needles of assorted sizes. Hundreds of needles, jammed tightly. I pulled out other drawers to find the same thing: hoarded knitting needles.
“Mom!” I called, wandering about the room.
All of Sarah’s clothes sat in a pile in her closet. On her hangers, bags of yarn dangled. A housecoat draped over her headboard. Eight pair of slippers peeked from beneath the bed.
“Mom!” I yelled again, hustling out of the room.
Mom sat in the living room, entwining two long, slender sticks into a network of yarn. Sarah sat on one side of her, and Grandma sat on the other. Reindeer pranced across their chests, ending in a knitted sleigh on Sarah’s sweater. On the coffee table sat glasses of Metamucil.
Mom looked up from her knitting. “Do I have to tell you again?” She glared at my designer shirt. “Go put on a sweater!”
I sprinted to my room and yanked my phone out of my pocket.
“911. What is your emergency?”
“Um…” It sounded stupid even before I said it. “My Grandma’s Christmas sweaters are turning my family into old-person zombies,” I blurted out.
The operator paused. I heard snickering in the background. In a professional and appropriately prudish voice, she said, “Miss, abuse of the 911 system is a crime. If this is not a real emergency, you need to hang up right now or I will inform the police.”
Tears stung my eyes as I watched my thumb hover over the touch screen. The police would not believe me. I lowered my thumb to the “end” icon.
That night I fell asleep with the light on as mom, Grandma, and Sarah baked fruitcake until dawn.
“Wake up,” Sarah called, shaking my shoulder. “It’s Christmas!”
I groaned and rubbed my eyes. Exhausted, I had fallen asleep in a chilly room and had woken up cozy and comfortable. I folded my wool-covered arms and sighed.
Mom, Grandma, and Sarah all hovered above me.
“Merry Christmas!” Mom greeted me, pinching my cheek. “What do you want for breakfast?”
I ran my hands over my belly, feeling the texture of miniature plastic lights beneath my palms. Sitting up, I adjusted the green sweater over my chest and said, “Stewed prunes.”
Read other stories from this project here: