Friday, December 23, 2011


The original 'Beat' stockings - lined
up by the dozen
Stockings were big in my family. I don't mean size-wise - by today's standards, Grandpa's dress socks & even Dad's wool work socks were quite small. I mean, they were exciting, surprising hosiery of joy that we got to open en masse with our cousins and see what we all had in common, and what - if anything - differed. At our big family Christmases, of which there were many, the parents (I'm guessing mostly the aunties) and Grandpa all contributed to the stockings. With upwards of a dozen stockings to fill, the items were simple and the work was shared - free note pads handed out by Grandpa's bank. A wrapped sugar cookie. A candy cane. A mandarin orange in the toe. These were the bits you anticipated. But there was always so much more - candy, lip gloss, a cow-string toy that danced when you pushed up on the bottom, a crying lamb noise maker. Each token was a treasure to ooh and aah over. I got great presents - some truly memorable presents, but each year it was the stocking I couldn't wait to get into.  

remember that cotton
doesn't stretch.
When making stockings ...
I still have that fascination. Adults didn't get stockings when I was a kid, but for some reason now we all do. I think, maybe I contributed to that change - at least in our family. As a teenager with only a minimal part-time job and needing to save for our trip to Africa, I told mom that instead of buying presents for my sisters (then 17 & 19) I wanted to make & fill their stockings. We'd never had actual 'stockings' - we had socks - so even that was a shift. Little did I know that filling stockings, even then, was more expensive than whatever I would have bought my sisters - more expensive, but also so much more fun. I bought the smallest possible amount of contracting fabric from our local one-stop department store in Christmas red and Christmas green. Each paycheque in November & December I'd head back to the department store, or to the drug store and buy a few more treasures to squirrel away - wee stuffed animals, gloves, candy and makeup. A candy cane shaped tube of Bonne Bell lip gloss? Oh, hello 1984! - everything a teenage girl imagines her big sisters want. Those cheap cotton calico stockings didn't last long, but I took pride in seeing them hanging on our rock fireplace while they lasted. 

 It was a few years (okay, only 5) before I got to fill stockings again. Someone has said there are three stages to Christmas - we believe in Santa, we don't believe in Santa, we are Santa. And soon enough I was Santa and filling a stocking for my BBs. I don't remember what we used the first few years for BB1, but I remember sitting up stitching until I wanted to cry for BB2's first Christmas, putting the finishing touches on their cross-stitch stockings sometime around 2 am. Somehow BB1's never did get ribbon trim - I think I liked it better plain. I got better at making stockings, and better at filling them. 

That first year the cross-stitch and calico stockings were woefully inadequate, resting on top of stocking-stuffer filled grocery bags, and I was strongly encouraged by my sisters-in-law to enlarge them. There have been years when the now 'pockets' were removed from the bigger, stretchy fleece stockings - years when I was the lone Santa and couldn't quite manage the whole package. They only finally got hanging ribbon on them a few years back when I bought stocking hangers (when did those become a thing, by the way?). 

These two stockings are my favourite Christmas things. If I'd had a daughter, I might have made her a white dress with a blue satin sash. But I have boys - boisterous, adventurous, intelligent, loving sons who make my heart want to burst, in so many ways. These squishy, soft, impossibly time-staking gifts acknowledge that love each year. These are what I'd want to save if my apartment building burned down. Yes, I enjoy the shopping - I love picking out the things they expect (a mandarin, a sugar cookie, a candy cane, their special ornaments). I love finding new surprises for them each year. And I love the growing distance in them as the BBs become more and more independent men. I love stacking up the stuffers a few days in advance, making sure the piles are 'separate but equal.' 

This year I'm filling six adults stockings. It's my first Christmas with STG, and I'm thrilled to have a separate pile of stuffers for him - his own separate but equal pile of love. I wanted to make him his own stocking, but haven't quite yet found the time. I have piles for my parents - always a challenge and a reward, and another new pile this year for BB2s sweetie. It's been fun building the piles - I almost need a Venn diagram of what works for who - 2 females, 4 males, 3 'children', 2 parents, 1 STG. I sometimes think I'd be happy to do away with gifts and just give stockings to each other, though I know I'm full of hooey. 

Christmas for me is about many things - Christ, family, love, food, gifts. All of it. And for some reason, it all seems captured in this funny tradition of tubes of fabric filled with hope and joy and love. 

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