By Lynne Long
Stockings have always been a very special part of Christmas for me. If for no other reason than the tactile joy they brought. I remember when I was a little girl, I just liked to fondle them. They were Rudolph-nose red, made from supple velvet with a winter white cloud of lamb’s wool for the cuff. My maternal grandmother had made them, and they transformed our mantel into a thing of beauty.
At age four, I guess I couldn’t be trusted with the job of adding delicate glass ornaments to our tree, but my mother always asked me to help hang the stockings. I remember standing on tip toe on my little step ladder to stretch up high to the four evenly spaced nails and carefully position each family member’s sock. Mine was the last.
One year, as the countdown to Christmas began, I was removing the stockings from their green and red cardboard box, when I felt something in the toe of mine. I gently dipped my hand in to where the sock made a turn. To my delight, I found a deck of miniature playing cards. I guess I had missed them from the year before. You would think Santa had already come! I went running to the kitchen to show my mother. She just laughed and kissed my forehead. I can’t decide if it was a bit of early Christmas that made me so giddy, or just that I was the one who had found the treasure. The joy that small prize brought is as clear in my memory as an icicle on a frosty morning.
Stockings have certainly changed. In the 60s, our collection did not include glitter monograms or lime green polka dots. My grandmother did hand-embroider some smiling Santa faces on them one year. Most stockings now are embellished by machine. In my mind, the time spent on heartfelt handiwork was part of the charm.
There are even stockings now for the family pet. No one has loved a dog more than my mother loved our silky collie, Sandy, but she was not on Santa’s nice list. Sandy might have been rewarded with a ham bone from our Christmas dinner. In that respect, she was a pretty lucky dog. My mother’s ham would have rivaled any of the specialty ones they sell now. I can see (and smell) it, scored with a deep diamond pattern, and covered in pineapple rings with maraschino cherries in the middle secured with a toothpick.
Mom was also an expert at knowing what to put in our stockings. Nobody since has been as thoughtful. Her well-defined skills came from listening, not an Amazon wish list. Even as an adult, I was amazed at how she could remember the little things I liked. Instead of gift cards, my stocking overflowed with cashews, Santa socks, my favorite nail polish, small books, and cheesy holiday jewelry. I miss those stockings, and my mother.
I believe sometimes it is the little things that make the holidays so memorable- singing classic carols just a bit off key, delicate icy patterns on your windowpane, hot chocolate with a mountain of melting marshmallows, an ambush kiss under the mistletoe, a bear hug from a new-found friend, or the sparkling eyes of a child in the glow of the tree lights. We should all be more appreciative of the small miracles the holidays bring.
I think I might offer my assistance in helping my daughter take down her Christmas décor this year. My three-year old granddaughter, Evelyn is in charge of stockings. If I play my cards right, she might find a surprise in a bend of her sock on a merry Christmas day next year.