The Christmas Sweater

Back when W. was in the White House, my friend Catharine, who worked there, invited me to be her guest at the Christmas party. I was thrilled! And I had the perfect outfit: A Christmas sweater adorned with snowflakes, red and white piping, and a faux fur collar that gave the whole thing, I thought, just the right touch of holiday elegance. I’d already had the sweater for one season, and every time I wore it small children would come up and ask if I knew Santa. Truly.

Were this story to happen today, I am sure that my daughters would launch an intervention, but they were too young at the time to know better. And so off I went to Washington, ready to meet the leader of the free world in all my fluffy glory.

I should have realized my faux pas as soon as I arrived. Every other party guest wore cocktail-attire black, or a subtle shade of cranberry. Needless to say, I turned more than a few heads, and when the president’s social secretary broke through the receiving line (“I heard about your outfit and I just had to see it!”) all I could think was, “These people are jealous! They all want my sweater!” Holding my head a little higher, I wasn’t even surprised when the time came to shake the First Lady’s hand and she leaned in to whisper, “Love the sweater.”

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Fast forward about seven years. My girls grew up, caught sight of this photo, and—as teenaged girls are wont to do—burst into gales of mocking (and, I like to think, sympathetic) laughter. I still had the sweater and, not knowing what else to do with it, Annesley and I decided to dress the dogs.

Khaki (the lab, who clearly has a keener eye for fashion than I do) had the good sense to protest, but after a little bit of snarling and more than a few treats, she and Max were photo ready. The result was our 2009 Christmas card:

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Today, these two photos—“The White House” and “The Dogs”—sit side-by-side on the bookshelf in our family room. To most people, they are simply a curiosity. To me, they are living proof of why we need verses like Romans 12:3 (“Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought”) and of letting God weigh in on what not to wear.

Colossians 3:12 says, “So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline.” If you’re like me, and getting dressed for holiday parties is harder, even, than getting your kids to show up (showered) for the Christmas photo, consider posting Colossians 3:12 in your closet. Even the most awful Christmas sweater, paired with humility, can make a good impression.

(Looking back, I have to believe that Laura really did like the sweater. As my mother-in-law says about almost every celebrity she has never met, “She seems like such a nice person.”)

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