I'm in San Francisco in my sister Stephanie's living room. She's just put the kettle on for tea, and our other sister Claudia has arrived and our mother is here as well, sitting on the sofa. Steph is designing an upcoming production of The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe at the drama school where she works. Everyone is making props. After painting a rubber loaf with white and green paint, to make it look moldy, she moves on to Tumnus's hoofs. This involves cutting the toes off a pair of ballet flats and gluing them onto a pair of tights.
The living room is sunny and the walls are crammed with paintings and bookcases. Our mother is sunk deep in the sofa cushions sewing a tail onto a faux fur beaver costume.
Noel the cat stretches out on a chair beside me. On the table is a flowerpot of roses, salt and pepper shakers, masks, candles, hangers, eye glasses, glue gun.
Steph holds up her Tumnus tights for inspection. "Okay?" she asks.
"Great," I say.
"Mom - the kettle's boiling!" my older nephew calls from the kitchen.
"Is that the beaver's tail?" Claudia asks our mother, sitting on the sofa.
By now, Steph has moved on to a large piece of blue satin. "What's that for?" I ask.
"I have to make a bag for the white witch to carry her things in."
"I remember when Miss Dewitt, the Home Ec teacher, called me up to the front of the room to tell how not to cut down the center of the pattern like I had done," Claudia says. "What not to do. I was the example. Everyone was already cooking while I was still making my apron to cook with. They started off the Home Ec class with sewing and then cooking. I was still making my apron about two cooking classes in," she says.
"Oh darling," says our mother. "That was the story of my life. What was so ridiculous was that we weren't allowed to start the next thing until we had done the blanket stitch the hemming stitch, and a button hole, and all on this little piece of white fabric, and by the time I had finished, it was gray!
"Then later, I failed my school certificate at sewing. The garment I made was a little girl's dress - and I gave it to a child, you know - a lovely thing with smocking and pleats. But because I didn't use button holes in the back, and used poppers instead, because I thought it would be easier, they failed me."
"What? They failed you in Home Ec?" I ask.
"Oh yes," our mother continues. "But it didn't hold me back at all! After that I made slip covers."
"Remember you made a leather jacket for my Barbie out of a glove?" Steph asks.
"I do," I say.
"This is what's a riot for me," our mother puts in. "As I said, Steph - you haven't done so badly for a child who failed to get into the next grade because you couldn't handle scissors!"
Steph is now wrapping presents and parcels for Tumnus to drop at the lamp post.
"Hey Steph, you always used to say you wanted to be a gift wrapper at Filenes when you grew up," I say.
"That's right," she responds. "All my dreams have come true~"