Recently I was doing a bit of online Christmas shopping, and there on the Disney Store site I spied a pair of Haunted Mansion leggings that no one my age should even be glancing at. To be clear, there is no Mickey Mouse across the backside, or Tinkerbell Poufs dangling from the hips. They’re actually relatively subtle for a Disney clothing item, a simple grey legging with the black pattern of the Haunted Mansion wallpaper, which looks sort of classic 19th-centuryish from a distance, but up-close reveals bits of monster and man-eating plants. It’s said people in love often do silly things. I stuck them in my cart and checked out before I could be sensible.
They were on sale, of course, or I wouldn’t even have considered them. Like my mother before me, I like to do Christmas big; also like my mother, I have always been a very serious deal hunter, to make sure I get maximum bang for my budget. Not to brag, but under my mother’s tutelage, I became so good at researching quality and price that I grew a magician’s gift for making $100 work like $1000. It’s a talent I’m particularly proud of because I know I wasn’t born with it, and had to develop it from scratch. When I was a child my mother took me to the clearance rack at the fabric store where she had to figure out how to take other customers’ rejects and create something pretty, and in doing so demonstrated her tricks to me. Oddly enough it was this parsimony that also sparked my interest in design, two gifts produced by one thin bank balance. I’m grateful I wasn’t born rich.
At last my Disney purchases arrived in a shipping box crunched in by rough handling, but luckily all was well inside. I marked out which items go to whom, but I didn’t have enough minutes to test whether my twitterpated introduction to Haunted Mansion leggings would lead to an actual first date, so the leggings were consigned to the “Do Later” pile on my dresser. By Saturday morning my sudden crush had cooled all the way to nothing, and the leggings had begun to look like a moment of stupidity. Still wrapped in plastic, they had nearly fallen all the way off my agenda, so I had already dressed when the package happened to catch my eye as I reached for my perfume. Nobody wants to dress twice, but I rolled my eyes, thinking to tick off a task, and hurriedly slipped into the leggings, just to quickly check the fit and get on with more important things.
Angels beat their wings, choirs sang, and I began cavorting around the house in pants so comfortable it was like being naked without the embarrassing bits. Unfortunately, I had purchased them a size too big, and they are a little too lightweight for winter, but two minutes in I knew I would not be taking them off, maybe ever. I went downstairs to show my kids my fancy pants, and then I called my sister to tell her about my amazing find. She too is a fan of comfy pants, and got online to purchase a pair of her own. Disney should pay me commission.
The cut of the pants is nonbinding, and not too clingy, but it’s the fabric that’s the key, a fine filament synthetic knit which did not exist ten years ago, light and breathable with a nice drape. Being a bit of a fiber snob, I have always preferred natural fibers, but I firmly believe old dogs can learn new tricks, and having studied the clothing of ancient Egypt in my youth with a professor who brought fabric samples back from his excavations in the tombs, I have been interested to see how textile research has continued to advance, never dreaming one day it would progress to the point that I was wearing synthetic clouds on my legs.
At this point you’re probably wondering why I would spend 600 words extoling the virtues of a pair of monster infested leggings, especially that last paragraph that no one is going to care about except me. My new leggings have no eternal significance, no value to spiritual or social advancement, and zero percent of my purchase went to help widows or orphans. Yet the pants do matter because in a time of so much bad news, something pleasant and unexpected landed on my doorstep and made me smile.
Thanksgiving is nearly upon us, in the midst of an exploding pandemic which has caused so much upheaval, and now threatens the very day we gather with our loved ones and give thanks for all that is good. But in the middle of all the upset, I can’t help thinking of my old birch tree. It died last year, and I was very sorry to lose it, but as I write, I’m sitting before a nice, bright fire burning from the logs. Even bad things often come with blessings ruffling around the edges.
At this moment I have no idea whether I’m going to be making a feast, or eating a turkey sandwich alone, watching Miss Marple mysteries on tv, and maybe making a little craft. What I really want is to gather with all my huge family, feasting on pie and stories, and throwing out the little quotes and private jokes accumulated over decades, but that might be a dangerous choice. This year I may have to take my joy in a pair of comfortable pants, which might not be such a bad thing, if I look at them in context.
The pants attracted me in the first place because Disneyland, particularly the Haunted Mansion, is one of my family’s special places, loaded with memories stretching not only from my own childhood, but starting anew when my daughter Abby was just eleven months old. The pants were also on sale, and Christmas shopping and deal hunting always make me think of my mother. I know she would be proud of me as I make my lists and check them forty times to ensure I have everything right, much as she used to do. My mother also taught me to sew, helping me make my first pair of pants when I was six years old, brown elastic waist polyester, all the rage among six-year-olds in the 1970s. As a fashion design undergrad, I have retained a particular interest in textiles, how they feel, perform, and behave, and here I am decades later returning to my six-year-old roots with a new pair of elastic waist 90% polyester pants, as though my mom showed me the road, and I just kept running.
I know I’m getting a little weird, so before I slouch into waxing too absurd and poetic about a stupid pair of pants, I need to reiterate that I’m aware my pants have no grand meaning. Yet I appreciate my leggings because in many ways they represent a life well lived, full of experience, learning, and people who loved me. This Thanksgiving I might not get the roasted turkey or pumpkin pie I’m hoping for, but I’m not left with nothing. I think my ordinary pair of comfortable pants are worth celebrating because they remind me of all I have to be grateful for, and that is a wonderful thing.