Third of Twelve

Sounds like a Borg name, doesn’t it? It’s the third of the twelve days of Christmas and, in true McPhee style this family is ripping through them with verve, enthusiasm and noise. Christmas Eve was with Joe’s family, where I only missed finishing two knitted gifts. (I blame the flu. I totally would have finished everything if I didn’t need to waste all that time sneezing, sleeping and coughing. ) I’m making good time now though, and Chris’ Irish hiking scarf with random stripes. (Totally inspired by Sandy) is finished now.


Pattern: Irish Hiking Scarf, Yarn: about 3.5 balls of Knit Picks “Wool of the Andes.” in fern, pumpkin and cloud. (If I had it to do again, I might use 4.5)

The socks for Joe’s mother are not done either, though this is the stuff that so many of you asked about in the last post.


It’s Socks that Rock – mediumweight in “Pink Granite” (love this colourway) and the pattern is also from Blue Moon “Rock and Weave“. I’m especially fond of how very different the yarn looks worked back and forth in linen stitch, and how it looks worked in the round for the foot.


Charming…non? (It is only this simple amusement that has led me to knit this not only twice, but twice without changing a thing. A rare honour.)

Christmas day we whipped through a wonderful morning, a delightful afternoon and a festive evening, gathered with just the immediate McPhees. Erin got her Kitri socks…


Although I did finish them right there in front of her, and it almost broke me to give them to her. I love these socks. Love them. I was so nervous about all the beading, but it turns out that it’s totally easy and beautiful. I’m thinking about beading everything from socks to the family pet.


There were oysters. There was merriment, there were wonderful, thoughtful gifts exchanged and savoured, and a good time was had by all. On the second day of Christmas (which is really the one I want to tell you about) we went to see my Great Aunt Helen, and My Great Uncle Don.


This is a Boxing Day tradition. I have been to Helen and Don’s on December 26th every single year of my life. My kids have gone every single Boxing Day of their life. Going to Helen and Don’s on Boxing day is what our family refers to as a “Command Performance”. (Does your family have any of those? Days or functions which you cannot miss?) The only excuse for not attending a Command Performance is that you are dead, you are on fire….or now, as Helen and Don become more fragile, that you have a cold or something that you may pass on to them…see, Helen and Don are old. (They are also the owners of Cricket, the perpetual dog, but that’s a story for another day.)


Every year someone wonders out loud on the way to their house, how old Helen and Don really are. We don’t know for sure, anyone that would know for sure is dead, and if you ask Helen how old she is then she tells you it’s a State Secret. We’ve been trying to piece it together for years.


Helen and Don were married at the Church of the Holy Trinity in Toronto in 1951. (For Torontonians, this would be before the Eatons Centre sprang up around it.) Helen has always maintained that the reason they have no children was that she married too late and was too old to have children. Couldn’t do it. For the purposes of argument, let’s call that…what? Forty? Forty years of age when she married, fifty-five years of marriage…at a minimum, that puts Helen at ninety years of age. Don’s a little younger than she, but not by much. They still live alone, still cook and care for each other, still walk the dog several times a day and still know the exact nature and whereabouts of every neighbour on the street where they still live in the house my Great-great grandfather built in Lawrence Park North.

Helen doesn’t see too well anymore. (Although I peeked in the knitting basket by the chair and saw that it looks like she’s still turning out mittens by feel and memory) and Don doesn’t hear too well at all….but together they get by alright, and they still care for each other in the most lovely way. (About five years ago Don took the time during our visit to show us all pictures of Helen in the bath…just to make sure we all understood that she was still a woman of profound beauty.) Helen still kisses you so hard it hurts, Don gets Cricket the perpetual dog to do the same tricks for my little nephew Hank that he did for me when I was little. The food they put out for us to eat should have the same “approach with caution” sign on it that it had when I was four, and Don still urges us all to eat it. (We still put it in our purses when they aren’t looking.)


In the thirty-eight boxing days that I have visited my Great Aunt Helen and My Uncle Don, only three things have changed.

1. At the end of the visit, my children receive $10 instead of the $1 that I got when I was little.

2. Five years ago they got a new chesterfield.

3. Finally, after being the legal drinking age for nineteen years… and in a stunning departure from way things usually work….

Yesterday? My Uncle Don offered me a beer instead of pop.

I took it.

(My sister Erin, the legal drinking age for 14 years, still got to choose between Ginger Ale and Sprite. She’s hoping that next year she may be old enough for tea. Cross your fingers for her. )

I love Don and Helen.

156 thoughts on “Third of Twelve

  1. First? OMG.
    It sounds like a wondeful celebration of days! All my very best wishes for a happy, healthy New Year for you and your family… including Helen and Don!

  2. My dad’s birthday is (was)Boxing Day. We didn’t really call it a Command Performance day, but when we were in town, we ALWAYS celebrated it on his actual birthday, NEVER on Christmas Day! He would have been 88 years old yesterday. He’s been gone for nearly 17 months. I miss him a lot.
    Your Aunt and Uncle look and sound like terrific people! And I got to have my mom, Mary (age 84) with me this year on Christmas. So it’s been a good time. She goes home on Saturday.

  3. I am absolutely loving the beaded socks. They’re just beautiful. Is Cricket the perpetual dog really like Cricket the 4th the way UGA is(the bulldog from University of Georgia)?
    Have a happy new year!

  4. Love the pink granite socks! Covet them muchly!!! Command performance: any gathering at my Uncle Jason and Auntie Barbs home. They are at least 2-3/year and always a blast. How else am I to see my cousins Carol and Steve! Glad to hear your holidays were wonderful and you recovered in time.

  5. Thanks so much for this post, even though I cried looking at Helen and Don. I miss my great grandparents Pearl & Julius fiercely. You are so lucky to have your people with you.

  6. It’s so wonderful that you are near to your family. My dad’s here for Christmas, but that’s it. Glad you could enjoy a wonderful holiday tradition.

  7. All the socks are gorgeous. Don and Helen are gorgeous. The oysters are gorgeous.
    OK, so I may be a little giddy at this point, what with the rum balls and getting my house back and all, but it’s still true.

  8. What a lovely family tradition! And those beaded socks are particularly elf-ish, so it’s totally appropriate that they be finished on Christmas Day. I hope your other 9 days are as wonderful!
    (Me, I’m back at work, reveling in the return to routine. I’m such a weirdo.)

  9. Your g-aunt and uncle are beautiful people! God bless ’em. Socks: Swoon. Scarf: Way cool. Glad it was such a memorable Christmas and Boxing Day (now looking up Boxing Day…what the heck? lol) Best Christmas gift ever this year: My MIL gave me all her old knitting needles–some actually belonged to her mother once upon a time. She no longer knits, and she knew that I’d recently taken up the hobby. Is that like the nicest, most selfless gesture ever, or what? There are some really cool needles in the bunch, too. Maybe it’s just me, but I like things with a little history. Hope to do them proud.

  10. I, too, had the flu… also cut into knitting the seemingly interminable pairs [two slippers BUT double soles!!] of soon-to-be felted slippers. Glad to hear you are feeling better.
    Congrats on the beer! That is an achievement.
    Speaking of achievements…
    When you give a Christmas (and all the other wonderful holidays!) present, you, as my sister says “Go big or go home!”.
    Awesome idea again. Thanks for thinking of it.
    Best wishes for the rest of the days of Christmas!

  11. That sounds great. Was there dancing?
    I just finished my first experience knitting with beads and am very happy with the results. I too have a desire to add beads to everything in sight. Your socks look simply smashing!

  12. Boxing Day with Don and Helen sounds like quite the trip – and a good trip at that (probably even better now that you’re old enough for beer!).
    And yes, we need a post about Cricket the perpetual dog. Because if it’s what I think it is, then we all need posts about taxidermied animals to make this into a real holiday. Dammit.

  13. Command performance in our family was Thanksgiving at the cottage where Grandma Olive would make more food than 20 of us could possibly eat then fuss when there were leftovers. Don’t you dare try to take a pass on the green jello salad with carrots and celery. We still laugh about Grandpa Alfred piping up at age 95 and telling her he’d never liked it.

  14. Love the family stories (I really miss the older generations – we’re it now in this family and it feels so strange).
    Love the socks!
    Love the new total for TSF!
    But what we are all dying to know is this – what did you buy at the Lettuce Knit sale? And what mayhem did you leave in your wake?
    My own credit card is still smoking from my visit this morning to my LYS and its end-of-year sale.

  15. Your Aunt and Uncle’s pictures are lovely–thank you for sharing your story. My wish is to grow old like that with my hubby–lovely post, thank you.

  16. Love the socks, but more than that I love the stories! Your great-Aunt and great-Uncle sound like wonderful people, and you are lucky to have them.
    No command performances left in our family since the commanders have all died. However, if I didn’t make the traditional family items for my brother and his family (I have no family and his wife can’t cook), I just might be lynched.

  17. Oh please do write a post about Cricket soon!!! I had a cousin Muriel & her husband Joe (all of my cousins are a good deal older than me – the youngest is 10 years older & Muriel was one of the oldest in a family of 12) that were sort of our Don & Helen. There weren’t command performances but they were engaged for 25 years before they finally married & were too old to have children. So they doted on all the young ones in the family (their nieces & nephews & us young cousins). They bought Christmas & BD gifts for all the children & teenagers & managed to find exactly the one item you wanted (even if you didn’t know it). They were totally devoted to one another & the kindest people I’ve ever known. They died within a few months of each other & are sorely missed by all.

  18. What a wonderful story about your family…it is so nice to have that deep connection with family. I miss that now that a lot of my aunts and uncles have passed…but, I am lucky that I still have my 90-year-old mother with me.
    I not only love your blog but your books, too…thanks for making a lot of my days….

  19. Oh my goodness, I think I love Don and Helen, too!
    My husband had surrogate grandparents just like them — high school sweethearts who married other people, for some reason, but eventually found their way back to each other and never let go until heaven called — Jesse and Louise. I miss them, as you surely will miss Don and Helen one day — and I know you know that every Boxing Day you get with them is a treasure.

  20. Every family should be lucky enough to have a Don and Helen. And the family rituals that are so much a part of who we are. Unfortunately most don’t. And Cricket? I have a feeling I’m gonna love that story!

  21. Sounds like you had a WONDERFUL holiday. I miss going to my grandmother’s for occasions.
    I got my hoilday knitting done in time and my brother just emailed me to pass on that his girlfriend has been wearing the wristers I gave her and has pronounced them the best present of the year. Go knitting!!! πŸ™‚

  22. How wonderful to have Don and Helen to spend Boxing day with, and the fact that they still love and care for each other after all these years is so poignant.

  23. Awww, what a schmooopy sweet story!
    (schmoopy is my word for absolutely adorable.)
    And, I’m close to trying beaded knitting thanks to your socks. But not quite. I still contend that the beads are way too fiddly. I think I’ll keep on with the appreciating others’ beaded knitting and work my own magic on yarns and beads separately.
    Happy Holidays!

  24. Happy holidays to all! Everyone needs a little Helen and Don in their lives. Tradition is so good for the soul after all. I loved your MIL socks so much, I bought the pattern. I imagine lots of folks did that. After forgetting to order when you posted the pink ones (in spring?) I didn’t want to let em’ get away again. I also imagine Blue Moon is going to love you more after today;)

  25. Thanks for sharing the scarf – it’s gorgeous, and just what I’ve been looking for. I recently tried making a cabled scarf – my first cabled anything. The cable itself was great, but the scarf curled in on itself horribly, and I ended up frogging the entire thing. This pattern holds great promise…

  26. Helen and Don are beautiful! How truly blessed you are to have such lovely people in your family. From someone who’s extended family is nonexistent, thanks for sharing them with us, and here’s to more holidaze including them in the future.

  27. How wonderful that your children can do and be part of the same thing you were as a child. People like Don and Helen are gifts…may the be in your life for many years to come.

  28. And aren’t you glad that you and Joe are the next Uncle Don & Aunt Helen…with Children? You and Joe will be taking care of each other with tender symbiosis even then.
    Happy first Christmas and Boxing Day’s being married.
    kbb & Phili

  29. wow – I am *humbled*. (a) can I be them when I grow up? (b) since by definition I can’t (seeing as they were them way before I will be that – grownup), well, it’s just nice knowing they’re there. We need more of them for sure, meanwhile, they are certainly a treasure. Thanks for sharing!

  30. Don and Helen are awesome. It’s too bad they didn’t have children. We could use more people like them in the world.

  31. I want a Don and Helen. We have command performances too, miss them only if very ill or dead.
    I am sorely coveting the Kitri socks – Erin had better guard them well…

  32. They are wonderful. I love them. I love that she says it’s a state secret, and that he won’t tell either. I hope we get to see them on the news someday soon as the oldest living, and I hope they hold the honor for a couple of decades yet. Oooh, maybe I should scratch that, because if they’re the oldest, someone will insist on publishing her age and the mystery will be ruined. Anyway, many happy holidays to you and yours, and extra to Uncle Don and Aunt Helen too!

  33. What a wonderful Christmas…and you still have 9 more days ! I think the tradition of Boxing Day is wonderful, don’t have it around these parts (California). Your Aunt Helen might not be as old as you think…my mom thought she was too old to have me (1958) and she was only 29…she called me her change of life baby. Times were different back then…hopefully they are younger than you think, and will be around a lot longer.
    Got to make those granite socks. Love the yarn.

  34. Love the scarf and beaded sockies, but I *lust* that Pink Granite yarn!! (And Blue Moon is here in OR, near as I can make out – heheheheheh. Heck, I live/ed close to a couple places some of their colorways are named after, and have been to most of the others more than once.) Glad you’ve been having what sounds like wonderful holidays, Steph, esp. after that flu. Great Aunt Helen and Great Uncle Don – now *that’s* a marriage! (Methinks Uncle Don and my late husband Mike would’ve gotten along great. Husbands like that are special. [eg]) One of my family’s Command Performances was going to visit my maternal grandma on Christmas day after Mass (or more towards noon if we’d gone to Midnight Mass), all 8 of her kids and their families, with somewhere around 23 grandchildren in tow, to stuff ourselves with endless kolache and strudel while they all talked at once. Loudly and at cross-purposes. And I mean the adults, not the kids. πŸ˜‰ The grown-ups could drown us out in full cry any day, even if we outnumbered ’em.
    Congrats on finally getting a beer!

  35. What a beautiful story about Don and Helen. I remeber going to visit relatives when we would go to Ireland and you wondered about the food.
    It is great to see two people so fond of each other. My Mother and Father were married in 1951. They are now 86 and 85 and would be lost without each other.
    I also enjoyed reading the remarks left by your loyal readers.
    My mother has many state secrets.

  36. Your Helen and Don sound like a fascinating couple. I think a visit with them would be anything but boring.
    Of course a search of wedding registries in the year and place of marriage would lead to birth dates of each individual married in that year. If you really want to know. I think the guessing and mystery is more fun though.

  37. I loved reading about Don and Helen. It made me think of my grandmother, and cry…she passed away in 2000, when she was 99 (Helen looks an awful lot like she did when she was 89). I never knew my grandfather, as he died when my dad was 14 and Grandma never remarried. Grandma’s food wasn’t ever suspect, though; the bread was always fresh (made on Mondays and Thursdays, and never with a recipe, always by feel); the peaches always “put up from last season” (except in the summer, when they were fresh). She didn’t use margarine, only butter, and sometimes it was butter that she’d churned herself “just for fun”. Always in homemade calico dresses and with an apron, never in store-bought clothes (other than the socks she favored in later years). Thanks for sharing, Steph, and thanks for stirring up some memories for me. πŸ™‚

  38. I want to be Helen and Don when I grow up! Thank you so, so, so much for sharing their story. Made me a bit weepy (though, in my defense, I am hopped up on cold medicine)
    Our family command performances? Any and all holidays with my mother. We are trying to get them whittled down a bit since my brother has in-laws and we have my father to also visit. πŸ™‚

  39. Thank you for sharing the Command Performance story. It looks like a wonderful tradition and fun too!
    I LOVE the stripes in the Irish Hiking Scarf. I will definately be testing that variation.

  40. I adore those seriously girly Kitri socks.
    Your Great Aunt Helen looks just like my Great Aunt Maud. An awesome lady who danced like a dervish, drank like a drain and saved someone’s life single-handed during the Blitz. She was a real battleaxe (and proud of it) and lived next door to my grandmother (another battleaxe) and gave us two pence each for ice creams right up until we were twelve and she passed away; she refused give us more as she did not condone inflation, she said.
    She was a knitter too, as was my grandmother. I have their needles in my vase. Sometimes, when I have one of those “Omigod I’m turning into my mother” moments, I remember that that means I’m turning into them too – and that’s not a bad thing at all.

  41. Can I come to Helen and Don’s next Boxing Day? They are lovely–just look at those smiles!

  42. Those are the kind of Command Performances that deserve honour! Thanks for sharing – I feel like I know them.
    I remember when I was old enough to have ‘tea’ with my Grandparents. I was a lot younger than your sister! but it was still an event.
    Love the Pink Granite socks btw.

  43. everything looks great! I love the socks, all of them. Your dear aunt and uncle look so great, and good for them that they still live alone and that they have a family to come love them and come take over their home. It touches me in a way I can’t say. Merry Christmas my dear knitter!

  44. I am a great Aunt to several off spring of my sisters and brothers children and i try to stay close to them ,as like Helen I had no children of my own .I so wish they lived close enough to do what you do and make a visit on a special day. All is not lost- we talk on the phone lots and email one another so that is a big part of the joy that computers bring into our lives. Thank you for telling us about your dear Helen and Don and wishes for good health and happiness for them both .
    LOVE those socks that rock and the Kitri socks are fabulous. Enjoy the rest of the celebrating and stay well.

  45. You should call the church where they were married and see if they have a record of a birthdate for Don and Helen. You don’t want one of them to turn 100 and for no one to have a party for them! Also, just wouldn’t you like to know? Odds are the church may not have that record, but I’d have to try to take a little peek at that possibility myself.
    Also, $235,000 for MSF/DWB? Is there any more money to count in your e mail files? Maybe one last call out to those who might have missed reading that day would garner a few more dollars. It’s sad to be so close but still short of the goal. And do they at least send you a thank you note for being such a great fundraiser?

  46. Helen and Don are so beautiful they make me cry. You and your kids are so damnably lucky to have such family – I know you treasure them and just hope you tell them so and visit more often than only once a year. I’ve got to go wipe my eyes now…
    God bless and love the socks that rock pattern!

  47. To answer Judy (above, by two, at last count, yes, MSV/DWB sends a thank you note. I got mine in the e-mail this afternoon. They are extremely grateful.
    Great day(s), Steph! Ours was, too! As for Command Performances, I guess I’m the one who hosts it, since I’m the oldest of the oldest generation….

  48. I lovelovelovelove the Kitri socks.
    The whole Boxing Day tradition y’all have is really charming. πŸ™‚
    My dad’s side of the family (the immediate family, mostly) gets together the Sunday before all holidays and Granny’s birthday. Granny died a couple years ago but I hope to make sure we still get together for her birthday every year.
    My family and one of my cousins (w/ her hubby and three kids) drive about 3.5hrs one way for our Sunday gatherings. Everyone else is pretty local. I could lose a couple fingers and still count on one hand the number of times we’ve made it an overnight trip. At least you have plenty of time to digest on the way home and we don’t feel obligated to make that trip on the actual holidays.

  49. Don and Helen sound lovely. And I’m awed by the fact she’s still knitting.
    For my part, I’m in that stage of definitely feeling like I’m coming down with something icky today. Like maybe all those late nights with alcohol recently haven’t done me much good. Didn’t stop me from going to the LK sale this afternoon though. Where 4 skeins of Handmaiden 4-ply cashmere in lovely pale browns and oranges and fawns may have wrestled my gift cert out of my bag and demanded to be placed there instead. It would’ve been far too Grinchlike of me to say no to them. Really.
    Done gloating. Time to go to the couch and feel sorry for myself now.

  50. How beautiful. Thanks for sharing this with us. This Christmas was my first with no grandparents. My paternal grandparents have been gone for many moons, but my maternal grandfather passed away 11 years ago December 22. My maternal grandmother passed away this past February, and this year was hard. We always celebrated holidays at her house. I inherited her yarn, and while my skills were not worthy in time for me to make trinkets for the family for this Christmas, next Christmas they will all be receiving a knitted stocking made out of Nanny’s yarn.

  51. this made me laugh out loud in the nicest kind of way. i love family and relatives and command performances. There is something so nice about your post. i wish i knew don and helen. they sound like really lovely people.

  52. As soon as you posted the church of marriage for your aunt and uncle, the parish secretary in me said: “They could easily look up their dates of birth in the church marriage records.” But perhaps it’s more fun to speculate than know for certain? What a lovely story of holiday tradition and fun.

  53. I see the MSF total creeping up. You aren’t caught up with all the donation emails, are you? Not like I’d expect you to drop your holiday fun to tally donations, but with you, one can never tell. πŸ˜€

  54. Oh, wow… Helen and Don are amazing. Simply beautiful!
    Love, love, love your Irish Hiking Scarf. I made one 6 feet long for a special man in my life for Christmas… wove in two bits of yarn from the two skeins he brought me from Di Gilpin’s yarn shop in Scotland from a trip he went on this past summer. Yes, I am blessed with a muggle who will enter a yarn shop… even in another country!
    Yay for knitters! Look at the donations!

  55. Helen and Don are adorable. They remind me of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory when Willie Wonka said, “you smell like old people…and soap…I like it!”
    Funny about the having to be old enough to drink tea. My grandma starting giving me tea when I was 5.

  56. Your story made me miss my Grannie Annie, she and Oliver were my Helen and Don, and we always spent Boxing Day with them. Now I live in another state so I dont get to visit Oliver anymore and Grannie Annie passed away, but I truly believe that if more people had a ‘Helen and Don’ the world would be a much more beautiful place……. Congratulations on the beer by the way!

  57. This reminds me of a lovely couple that I have been around for years. Their names are Jack and Marvell. You see, Jack and his sisters have known my dad and his family since their childhood years of knowing one another.
    Dad and Jack when they became men went around the country to South Dakota, New Jersey and everywhere in between, one with the other seeking work.. sometimes they found it, sometimes they didn’t and spent many a night in a rooming house. They each finally married and my mom passed almost 14 1/2 yrs ago and daddy and Jack met back up. We never ever ever miss a chance to “go back to the country” to see Papa Jack and Mrs. Marvell. Due to health reasons, they have had to place their farm and house on the real estate market and move to live with their youngest daughter and her family. Saturday I visited them for what will probably be the last time for awhile. Bittersweet since my beloved pet child Domino is buried on their farm along with their beloved pets. When I saw this, I am reminded of Papa Jack and Mrs. Marvell and all the fond memories, even the ones made last weekend packing their possessions in cardboard boxes bound for what will probably be their last home. Memories that will forever remain in my heart.

  58. I love sweet old couples that are still mad for each other. I have several that come to my restaurant, the husbands pull out chairs and help with coats. It always gives me a lift to see any of them.

  59. Steph, it doesn’t bug me that they won’t give me a beer. It just confuses me that they know I own a bar, and worse than that, am an “un-wed” mother. I just don’t get how I can be old enough to have a child, and run a bar, but it’s gingerale all the way. It doesn’t bug me, it fascinates me.

  60. Thankyou so much. Since my grandparents passed on so long ago, I dearly miss those visits in my life. I’m so glad for you to have had such a lovely boxing day.

  61. That’s lovely… I want to be Helen and Don when I grow up…but frankly, I’d kill my husband for pictures of me in the bath NOW, so I don’t think it’s possible.

  62. My great-uncle Don and great-aunt Jean are like that. Also childless, with a cat that seemed to live forever. They moved to Arizona years ago, and I miss them very much. Thanks for sharing your aunt and uncle with us!

  63. What a lovely post! It’s really cool when we can be around people who have so much history (generally–most of it is pretty interesting if you can get them to talk about it). One of my favorite people in my life was my Opa (my great-grandfather).

  64. The knitting is beautiful as always. The story of Don and Helen very touching. Your sister still getting gingerale priceless. Congrats though on the beer. Maybe next year Erin πŸ™‚
    Bless you all

  65. How cute!
    My in-laws were similar in a way. When they were in their late 80’s, my father-in-law had lost his marbles, but was physically ok. My mother-in-law was falling apart at the seams, but had her cookies. Together they were whole. May they rest in peace.
    But seriously, Steph, how can you still knit socks? And how can you knit anything green? Just a question.

  66. Looks like you have had a wonderful holiday! Love that pink granite yarn, by the way. I signed up for Socks That Rock this year. Can’t wait to start knitting:)

  67. Oh, Stephanie. . . . .
    you do know how to tug at the heartstrings.
    Yes, I’m teary.
    Happy Christmas and Merry New Year, and lots of fuzzy hugs.

  68. my heart is filled with christmas joy! not only did i enjoy your touching post (so reminiscent of my own boxing day experience)but….! most importantly santa brought our family a new shiny all the bells and whistles computer with a fully functioning monitor that allows me to view in full glory the pictures you post on this blog!! oh how i tremble when i think what i’ve been missing. for months now the screen of our previous monitor was continually losing brightness and colour definition. i could but squint at the dark brown patches that any online photos became when viewed at my end. and now, yes now i revel in glorious colour and detail. sing hallelujah!!
    i am happy.

  69. I just don’t have any words at all for that post, but I’m crying all over my keyboard, so that ought to say something.

  70. 1) The Kitri socks are gorgeous. Well done, you.
    2) Your Boxing Day story made me wish I had a Helen and Don of my own. They sound like lovely people, and have such bright eyes and smiles. Thank you for sharing them with the rest of us.
    Happy new year!

  71. Make that Second of Twelve…
    Thanks for the amazing gift of knitting ‘my’ Rock and Weave socks (unaltered? I shiver) twice over.
    Now *that’s* a knitting compliment.
    Thanks for making this year so goddamned funny and wonderful for all of us.

  72. Erin posted! Erin Mother-of-Hank! This is kind of like Athena or Jane Eyre or any other mythological being logging on.
    I’m all verklempt. Must. Lie. Down.
    (and it’s so great that they won’t serve alcohol to a bar owner…)

  73. The IHS is very nice, great color combination. And what a great aunt and uncle to have. 38 visits? That’s a wonderful tradition.

  74. That is such a sweet family vignette. But I’m pretty sure I need to hear the “Cricket the perpetual dog” story as soon as possible!

  75. Thank you for sharing a wonderful family time. We can tell from your story and pictures just how lovely they both are. Tea. I hope your sister is old enough for tea next year!!

  76. (all together now) Hi, Erin!
    This was our first Christmas since my mother’s father died in June. Our family’s Command Performance was traveling to West Virginia the day after Christmas to enjoy the holiday with my mother’s parents. And in a peculiar irony, as we caravanned this year, my husband and I and 3 of our 4 kids spent about 45 minutes stuck on the approach to the Silver Bridge that spans the Ohio River on route 35. That’s the same Silver Bridge that famously collapsed into the river 39 years ago…within a few days of when my mother made her first trip “back home” with me, her 6 month old baby. As it turned out yesterday, the other car in the caravan, which carried my parents, brother, and first-born son, crossed the bridge safely and witnessed (and avoided) the initial accident in the 6-car fender-bender that delayed us.
    But all is well, and Woody is missed.

  77. Thank you for a wonderful visit with your aunt and uncle. I am now the oldest person in my family and I wish I still had all my grandparents and aunts and uncles to visit. This year my little niece is doing a school project called “The Gift of Age” and she asked to interview ME. I am the oldest and I am ‘only’ 55 yo! Bummer!

  78. I love your Aunt Helen and Uncle Don. I don’t have to meet them to know that. I’d happily go see them every year on Boxing Day, if they were in my family. How wonderful!

  79. On Christmas Day, we got to bring my husband’s Grandma over from her assisted-living center for dinner. She has no idea how magical she is for me, reminding me of my own Grandmas (who have gone Home) without making me cry. She turns 96 on Jan 1. When asked what she wants to do for her birthday, she waves us off as if she’d be too much trouble and she probably won’t feel like going out – but then someone offers to drive her to the casino and she perks up and says (in her sweet French accent), “Casin-O? That would be nice, I think?”

  80. I wish I knew your loved ones personally. Thank you for the glimpse.
    Happy everything, whatever day of Christmas it might be.

  81. OMG!! I love those socks, too. And, too funny (I think) about those bath photos. Hmmm, hope that my husband thinks the same things when I’m that age (but maybe not the showing the great-nieces the photos part…)

  82. I’m glad you got over the flu in time to enjoy your Christmas and to visit Helen and Don without being contagious.
    Our “command performance” is with the youngest ones. When I was little, my parents would let us open the stockings in the morning, but no presents could be opened on Christmas until all persons expected (and usually a few unexpected) had arrived, and all had eaten Christmas breakfast, and breakfast had been cleaned up after. I thought (and still do) that this was a fine way to do things, but my younger sister was an impatient tot and hated it. She vowed not to “torture” her children so. So now Kristine and I go to her house Christmas eve and spend the night, and have crack-of-dawn Christmas with her children. After which, we all then troop over to my parents’ place, and eat breakfast, and clean up after it, and have the second round for all the adults’ presents.
    Then in the afternoon we do birthday things, since my birthday is on Christmas, and Kristine’s is two days after. Then Christmas dinner, a game of Balderdash or some such, a soak in the jacuzzi, and home again.
    My grandparents have all passed by now, but my parents should have a couple decades left yet; they’re only about 70. So hopefully this will remain the plan for a long time yet.
    Our best to you and yours.

  83. How very sweet, to have dear family so close by. Have you ever read “A Cup of Christmas Tea” by Tom Hegg? I thought of it when I read your lovely post.
    All your knitting projects are great. The socks are awesome. πŸ™‚

  84. Could it be that your lovely elders gave you beer this year because you’re now a married woman?
    All happiness to you and yours. I tried doing my pink and grey yarn in linen stitch, but it doesn’t have the cool polka-dotty definition that yours has. I’ll try again, with a self-striping yarn.
    I still haven’t finished my husband’s Xmas sweater, and it has been chilly. Maybe by New Year’s Day.

  85. I love all your projects! They are beautiful. Thanks also for your books… I read them all and found them inspiring… and I totally agree with your stash theories. My niece will probably inherit some of mine since I will never live long enough to use it all.. especially since stashing is a work in progress for me. Have a wonderful New Year. Best wishes from Italy.

  86. great knitwear, great family story, but PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, tell us about Cricket the perpetual dog!! I’m bursting with curiosity! :-/

  87. LOL! I love it. My grandmother, who I adored, had the same thing with age too. No one knew how old she really was, even when she died! All her “official” papers had different birthdays listed on them. They varied by as much as 7 years. It was just too funny, People spent enormous amounts of time and energy trying to weasel it out of her or find out legally. No such luck. She and my granfather had been married for 56 years when she died. Every holiday and especially every Christmas, my very, very large (she had 8 children and each on of them had at least 2 kids with the average being 4, you do the math!) It was a grand time and we had a blast. As a kid you knew you were finally growing up when you got to hang around the dining room table and listen to the adults talk. The trick of it was to pretend that you didn’t understand what the off-color language meant. So I know exactly what you mean about the beer. It’s a rite of passage. Your projects are stunning. I can see why you didn’t want to part with those socks. Wow! Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

  88. this was a lovely post. altho i am fast loosing them, i exchanged christmas cards with all my remaining great aunts this year and a visit with the remaining great uncle in october. so frail it’s heartbreaking, but so many good memories. πŸ˜‰ enjoy!

  89. Tried to email but it won’t send, keeps returning to me. Sent $25 in US dollars, sorry but do wish it were more. Thank you for all the smiles, laughs and more.

  90. Helen and Don are absolutely adorable and remind me of my Aunt Evie and Uncle Docky, who never had kids, either, and adored all their nieces and nephews. They’ve been gone 20 years now, and my heart breaks a little every time I think of how dear they were to me when I was young. They also had a perpetual dog, Snubby, who also did tricks on command.
    I am so glad you recovered your health and were able to visit them for your Command Performance!

  91. Helen and Don are absolutely adorable and remind me of my Aunt Evie and Uncle Docky, who never had kids, either, and adored all their nieces and nephews. They’ve been gone 20 years now, and my heart breaks a little every time I think of how dear they were to me when I was young. They also had a perpetual dog, Snubby, who also did tricks on command.
    I am so glad you recovered your health and were able to visit them for your Command Performance!

  92. I know I’m not the first to say this, but I think I love Don and Helen, too!
    I was most fond of the Rock and Weave socks but I sent the pattern to my Mom and she just flipped she loved it so much! It’s so wonderful to have other knitters in the family!

  93. Aunt Helen and Uncle Don have sprung some tears in my eyes. At least I don’t think it’s the virus. πŸ™‚
    YAH, for striped Irish Hiking Scarves! Love it!
    xoxo Late yet wishing you the merriest.

  94. Thank you for the Boxing Day story. It makes me miss my parents and aunts and uncles. They are all gone now, and Christmas just isn’t the same any more.

  95. Growing up we had Aunt Clara and Uncle Joe. They were my grandmother’s aunt and uncle as well as her godparents. They, too, married too old to have children but doted on all the neices and nephews of every generation. Aunt Clara knit mittens, and they taught every generation of us up to my daughter how to play Cribbage.
    Our own “Command Performance”, my Great-Uncle was just diagnosed with terminal liver cancer at age 90. This was his last Christmas with us, so we tried to make it a good one.
    Great socks, btw.

  96. I love those beaded socks–they look like they would fit right into the Klondike gold rush days. And a warning to your cats–go and hide for a while, or you might wake up beaded. I just had a Christmas visit with my parents, who are close in age to your wonderful aunt and uncle. They are still managing well in their own home, but they’ve put their names in to a senior’s home which is just starting to be built, and will be ready about two years from now. It will be sad to see them move out of the house I grew up in, but they’ll still be in the same town, with all their friends nearby.

  97. What a beautiful tradition. What a beautiful tradition you share with your children. It made me cry. You are blessed.

  98. You are lucky that you still have your aunt and uncle. I’m only a couple of years older than you, and all of the people of that generation in my family are long gone. Cherish them while you can.

  99. Don and Helen make me miss my Dad extra hard. For Dad, every cat was “Minou.” There was a long parade of “Minous” when I was growing up, no matter what the other cats and dogs were named. There was always a “Minou.”
    PURTY socks, too. Gotta get some of that Pink Granite. Not lke I need any more yarn. For research purposes only. Just sayin.’

  100. Oh thoes socks are so cute!
    secondly, I was wondering if you could post a pic of Don and Helen’s house. since it was built by your great great grandfather; the house must be pretty old itself! and I would love to see the caracter of it!
    Thirdly, Don and Helen are simple Precious People! Oh and jsut a tip if you really want to find out you might ask them what year they were born. I had a Great Grandmother (Nanny) and she would never tell us her age but she told us the year she was born! 1910. We were all glad to find out!

  101. Oh thoes socks are so cute!
    secondly, I was wondering if you could post a pic of Don and Helen’s house. since it was built by your great great grandfather; the house must be pretty old itself! and I would love to see the caracter of it!
    Thirdly, Don and Helen are simple Precious People! Oh and jsut a tip if you really want to find out you might ask them what year they were born. I had a Great Grandmother (Nanny) and she would never tell us her age but she told us the year she was born! 1910. We were all glad to find out!

  102. They are so sweet I can’t stand it!
    We have a Command Performance on Boxing Day at an honourary aunt’s house (which lately has been moved to a chinese buffet due to the age of the cook/host) I can’t tell you how wonderful chinese food is after two turkey dinners in a row.

  103. Helen and Don are adorable. My dear grandmother died at age 101, still clear as a bell. Made cookies up till age 99, when she really couldn’t see at all, but she said she made them by smell…they were always perfect, never a burned bottom. Maybe I should try that approach! I have beautiful knitted things from her as well, my favorite being my Christmas stocking knitted in 1952 with my name a birth year knitted in. She knit love into all she made. Thanks for the memories.

  104. My parents had me “late in life” so my aunts and uncles are all in their 80s and very few couples still have both members living. Getting to see Don and Helen alive and loving each other is a great gift!
    I love the stripey scarf btw.

  105. I have spent every Christmas Eve of my life at my Aunt and Uncle’s house, with the same punch and the same food, and I wouldn’t miss it either. My Aunt has been gone for several years, and my Uncle passed away this fall leaving the house to his son. Same punch, same food.

  106. Yes, every family has the Command Performance. Mine was my grandparents for Christmas Eve. I feel totally bereft during the holidays now that they have passed away and everyone pretty much does their own thing…
    What a beautiful tradition.

  107. Don and Helen are beautiful beautiful people. Thank you for sharing them with us. Please tell Erin my fingers are tightly crossed that next year she will be allowed to have at least tea. πŸ™‚

  108. That is the sweetest holiday story ever. πŸ˜€
    Congrats on getting the beer. Here’s hoping Tea is offered to your sister next year. πŸ˜‰
    Happy Holidays to you and yours!

  109. I consider “meeting” your Helen and Don one of the nicest gifts I received. I have a set of my own, Jack and Virginia. She’s 84, makes applique quilts for the Children’s Hospital, knits perpetually (I’ve spent an afternoon and seen a sock just grow off her needles) cooks wonderful things complaining loudly about her lack of skill in the kitchen and I adore her! Jack is a Quaker and source of benign frustration to Virginia as he’s always at peacenik meetings &c. Every moment I spend in their home is treasured. My own parents have been dead over 40 yrs. And…I’m glad for “Twelfth Night” because I’m just getting my holiday cards today!! My philosophy: if they beat the Valentines, it’s kosher. :o)

  110. What a wonderful way to celebrate. The scarf is beautiful. I can tell you that I am mortified that I didn’t have to click on the Borg link!! I knew EXACTLY what you meant!!!! (walking away to hide her head under a pillow)

  111. My Aunt & Uncle have a perpetual dog named Tuffy. He looks the same today as he did when I was 8. Occasionally Tuffy is a she. LOL

  112. My grandparents still live at home (lots and lots of stairs!) and are still and ever madly in love. Big Sylvia’s 96.5 and Gfather’s a tad younger. They are an absolute delight. Such a blessing!

  113. I really enjoyed your post, especially the part about Helen and Don. But I have to know something (please forgive this ignorant American), what is Boxing Day? What is it about and what makes it special? I’m seeing it all over my bloglines and I’m assuming it’s a Canadian holiday? I’m facinated now.

  114. Your aunt and uncle sound delightful. I loved your whole entry and your knitting was gorgeous as usual but, I must admit, what I loved the most was your use of the word “pop” for soda. I grew up in Detroit (“pop” country) and now live outside Philadelphia (“soda” country) and, oh, how I miss hearing people use “pop.” Cuz, darn it, it’s POP, not soda.

  115. I wish I had that kind of history around me. Thank you for sharing.
    As fot the socks…I have Pink Granite sitting on the shelf. I was too busy to knit it up when the kit arrived. Boy am I glad it had to wait, the linen stitch is the perfect choice for this yarn.

  116. Imagine my surprise to read your blog yesterday and realize you have just knit the exact same scarf that I am 3/4 of the way through. wooohooo……..LOL. I love it. The scarf is simple enough to watch tv to, but you have to concentrate enough that it is not totally mind numbing. We have good taste…….LOL.

  117. Helen and Don have years but no age–thank you for sharing them with us. What a nice present to hear about them and so many other wonderful wise and loving grandparents/aunts/uncles.

  118. steph, it’s funny that you and sandy and i all have the same feeling about the irish hiking scarves we made for christmas – the skein and a 1/2 of lambs pride i used for my mum’s partner’s scarf left a little to be desired. like sandy, i felt done by that point too. i’ve just started another (due to lack of needle options on my toronto visit) – i’ll use two skeins this time – but knowing me it may not be done till next christmas.
    on a completely unrelated note, i’ve been thinking about chatting with you about doula stuff sometime soon – it’s something i maybe want to get back into… maybe next time i’m in town you’ll be free for a tea? i’ll bring the biscotti.

  119. Hello from a knitter in the north of England. I was sent a copy of Yarn Harlot for Christmas and love it! I can now relax; it’s not just me who hides yarn, has a healthy respect for patterns (especially magazines and books of)and yarn sales, and who has had to make my New Year Resolution ‘finish one project before starting the next’ – but what about the ones already started?! I have a few American knitting books and I don’t care what anyone eles says- I think American instructions are very easy to follow!I buy them on Amazon and when I visit friends in Seattle.

  120. They sound wonderful. And yes, my family has several of those Command Performances. There’s one that’s particularly unpleasant, unfortunately, and we determined that we had all been very, very good this year, because we ended up getting to skip it due to illness.

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