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Magic Christmas Moccasins

December 25, 2012

For little kids, and even a little bit bigger kids, Christmas can be pretty magical. It’s the anticipation. The wondering. What will they get? What is in this or that package? Will they get the most exciting things that they had asked for or hinted at? Would there be any amazing surprises? Only time would tell. Only Santa or their parents or someone else knew. All the answers would come Christmas morning.

When I was very young, I always knew there would be one doll. A different doll every Christmas. Then I had apparently outgrown dolls. I can barely recall what I got after that. I remember I hoped and asked for some specific things that didn’t appear for me under the tree. When I was fifteen, I decided to take magical Christmas matters into my own hands for once. I wanted to make sure that I got what I really wanted instead of innumerable things that I didn’t. I was never much of a direct sort of person. No, I was a hinter. But, when my mom began asking for ideas for Christmas gifts, I decided to ask for what I really wanted that year, and to put the odds in my favor, I would only ask for that one thing. I seem to recall that the ‘Christmas Wish Jar’ was in use at our house then. So, every wish I put in was the same request: ‘Indian Moccasins from the Hudson’s Bay store’. My mom kept asking me to give her other options (which told me she wasn’t planning on getting the moccasins I dearly, no desperately wanted), but I didn’t wish to lower my odds, so I just kept asking for the same thing. I wasn’t going to offer other options. I was determined to be repetitive. ‘The squeaky wheel gets the grease’, she always reminded, so I took her at her word. She had been in the shoe department of that store with me when I first saw the moccasins and pointed them out to her. I made sure she looked at them. I insisted that she try to remember them because I really, really, REALLY wanted them.

I was part Indian, you see. A direct descendent of Pocahontas. I was always very, very proud of that heritage. I had always embraced that ounce of Indian blood in me. I had and wore everything Indian that I could, whenever I could. I was very white at a glance (pretty darn Celtic genetically with freckles, golden hair, light eyes and most definitely a ‘pale face’), but in my heart of hearts, I was a good deal Indian. So, this is why I pushed for those Plains Indians style moccasins. And they weren’t just your household slipper variety. They were the real deal, made by an Indian lady, for northwest Canadian winters. Up to the knees tall. Real moose-hide. Real fur. Fur in and out. Lavishly amazing Indian beadwork. GORGEOUS! And very expensive. At least for then, for us. But yet, I still pushed. I kept telling my mom that those moccasins could count for every gift and allowance for the entire year if need be. I wanted nothing else. Even for two or more years. Whatever it took. That was all I wanted for years to come. I would work extra chores for them. Anything.

When Christmas morning finally arrived, I had already given up hope on the moccasins. I’d almost forgotten all about them. They were too expensive. I was resigned to the highly likely fact that I was going to get a bunch of other little things like I usually did. Run of the mill generics. Probably. I didn’t see anything big under the tree for me. Nothing looked like the moccasins. Oh, well. That’s life. I was used to disappointment by then. But once all the unwrapping was done, there was one more thing quietly brought out. It was put in front of me. It looked like a 5 gallon bucket. It was a 5 gallon bucket. I had no idea what this was, but sometimes we would wrap things to disguise them – a little box in a bigger box in a bigger box sort of thing, to make the gift more exciting, especially if it wasn’t. I figured this was one of those things. Something little hidden deep down at the bottom of this bucket. Well, something was at the bottom of the bucket, underneath all the scrunched up paper atop. I don’t know if I had ever been truly excited at the receipt of a gift before, but they tell me I was squealing with delight. Pure giddy joyful happiness. There were my moccasins at the bottom of the magic bucket!

As it turned out, my mom, being the shrewd bargain hunter that she was, somehow found out who had made those moccasins, and then she contacted the lady and made a deal to buy a pair wholesale. To this day, I wish I could have gone and met that Indian lady. I don’t know what tribe she was from: Cree, Blackfoot or any other of the area, but I wished I could have thanked her personally and given her a huge hug for my genuine Indian moccasins. You can bet that my mom got many hugs. We still occasionally recall that Christmas morning and the moccasins my mom gave me. She remembers the event as happily as I do. I can’t ever recall any childhood gift that stayed with me like those. And decades later, of all the treasures I ever had along the way in earlier life, I still have those glorious moccasins with me. They’ve been ‘through the wash’ too many times to count. Last I checked, I need to do a little mending on them, but I can still wear them like I did way back then.

Not only did I wear those moccasins every chance I got, but I studied them and copied them, making moccasins like them for myself and others throughout many years. My kids learned to walk in the moccasins I made for them. Most of their early footwear were moccasins made by my hands. I made indoor, outdoor, summer and winter moccasins for them. I made moccasins out of many different leathers and suedes. I made some with beadwork but most without. Some had real fur, most did not. That first special pair of ‘real’ moccasins lit a light within me. It sparked a fire of making many more pairs of moccasins over many years, and plenty of other leather and beads, feathers and furs things to coordinate as well. The real magic of those Christmas moccasins that year, was that after I gave up on them, when I least expected to get them, my mom had magically made them appear for me. That Christmas my mom was a rock star magician to me. And like the Velveteen Rabbit, in a way, those moccasins became real, as they inspired many, many more similar creations over time.

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