“The best Christmas gift I ever received,” said my Grandpa Arnie, “was the amazing, fantastic, stupendously ugly Christmas sweater. Boy, was it horrendous! Best thing I ever got!
“My sister, Beulah, made it for me. She was two years older than I was, and was just learning to knit. After she’d knitted about a dozen scarves, she thought it was time to move on to a sweater, I guess. The funny thing about Beulah was that she loved to learn new things, but she never liked to stick with one very long. You should have had dinner at her place sometime: Mexican, Italian, Polish, and Chinese food – all in one meal! And after that, fifteen kinds of dessert, and all of them her favorites! But back to the sweater. She was learning all different kinds of knitting, different styles, and she wanted to try them all. In ONE sweater!
“So, there were zigzags, and granny squares, and checks and curlicues! Some parts were thicker than others, and parts of it were what you call ‘cable-knit,’ like lengths of braided rope. There were special knots and fringes, and every color in the rainbow – and two or three that weren’t! It was TREMENDOUSLY garish!
“But, it WAS quite comfortable -- though one sleeve was about an inch longer than the other -- and it was very warm. You didn’t even need to wear a coat – which was good, because I had about outgrown mine. So, here I was, looking like a carnival had exploded and all of it had landed on me – and there was my poor sister Beulah, beaming with pride at the very first sweater she had ever made.
“ ‘Sometimes,’ she said, ‘the best gifts aren’t the ones you get. They’re the ones you give.’ ”
And so opens "The Amazing, Fantastic, Stupendously Ugly Christmas Sweater." Young Arnie's adventures/antics center around the sweater, and serve to reinforce the lesson about how it's better to give than receive. It may also stir young minds toward creative thinking/problem solving. Set in the world of fifty to seventy years ago, it reminded me much of the sorts of stories my own grandfathers told me.
I can see this becoming a classic read for Christmas -- its size makes it perfect for stockings, or as an ideal gift for attendees at your ugly sweater party.