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Ugly sweaters new holiday tradition

The youngest called to say she was going to an Ugly Christmas Sweater Party and asked if I had something she could borrow.

It's always nice when your kids appreciate your good taste.

"Don't you have something with reindeer antlers on it?"

"You mean 3-D antlers with twinkling lights wrapped around them and sequins dangling from the points?" I asked.

"Exactly!" she shouted through the phone.

"It's in the wash," I deadpanned. "Not really, but thanks for thinking I might have something that over the top."

"I thought you had a sweater with a big snowman on it. It was really, really old - from the '90s."

"You're thinking of a red sweater I had with a big penguin sitting on a patch of snow. I washed it and the red bled into the white and turned the snow pink."

"Don't tell me you got rid of it!" she said with disbelief.

"I know. What was I thinking? I kick myself every day."

She then reasoned that if I don't have an outrageously ugly Christmas sweater in my closet, perhaps I'd like to ask one of my friends if they have one. I'm wondering which friend she thinks I should ask and exactly what I should say. "Hello, I was wondering if you had a death-defying ugly Christmas sweater in your closet? My youngest daughter seems to think you do."

Naturally, as a mother, it would be my duty to keep calling friends until I found something not only tacky, but battery powered, bedazzled and with a pine cone turtleneck.

Partygoers are scouring closets, attics, basements and thrift stores looking for the ultimate in holiday kitsch. Web sites are selling ugly sweaters from $25 to $50 a pop. If you have matching his and hers cheesy knit sweaters with log cabins in the snow, you could be holding a small fortune.

Still have that acrylic cardigan with the Scottie dogs wearing red plaid bows? You're in a position to deal.

Three enterprising young men in northwest Indiana started the My Ugly Christmas Sweater Web site in their spare time and have turned it into a side business. Demand is worldwide.

One of the founders recently received an e-mail from Sgt. Nancy Maldonado on tour in Afghanistan. She wrote, ""I am grateful that even during these times when we are away from home and our families, we can still have some sense of normalcy by having an ugly sweater holiday party."

When the daughter in search of ugly couldn't find something in my closet or at the thrift store, she bolted for the craft store. She bought a cheap red sweatshirt, tubes of puffy glue, bottles of glitter and decorated the front with a huge wreath and sparkling gold bow.

Fran Fine's grandma Yetta would have loved it.

After the party, she hung it in a closet at our house because she thought, and I quote, "it seems at home here."

A few days later, her sister arrived several hours ahead of her luggage.

She showered and appeared in the kitchen wearing jeans and the ugly Christmas sweat shirt. "Look what I found in the guest room closet," she said with delight. "One of your old ugly Christmas sweaters."

I didn't have the heart to disappoint her.

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