The Mysterious Case of the Four Christmas Stockings
I think it’s finally happened. I think I’ve FINALLY become a grownup. Or, at the very least, a rough approximation of one, decently presentable to those who do not know me too well. Tonight, I finished decking the halls, because there weren’t enough hours in my Sunday. Holidays, I believe, should SPARKLE. And sparkle they do. Oh, yes…
Between putting the lights on the stairs and arranging the Christmas bears so that didn’t look drunk (I failed. They’ve surely hit the ‘nog, without me), I came across my mother’s Christmas stocking. I don’t know why I didn’t expect to see it. It wasn’t as if it’d been stolen in the night by the Grinch or a wayward, non-Buddy elf. Still, I found myself unprepared for its reality – for the oddly sort of jolt that reminded me that it won’t be used this year. What does one do with such a thing? It seems cruel to toss it out with the trash. Disrespectful in an odd way. So, unsure of what its fate should be, I stared at it, dumbly, before moving. I needed to search the (horribly marked box – for which I only have myself to blame) for other things.
But then I found another stocking of hers. And another. And yet still another. It all felt very Lucille Ball meets Groundhog’s Day. Except instead of pulling an insanely large loaf of bread from the oven, I got stockings. If she were here, the Lucille Ball part would fit my mother to the ends of it. She was always falling into things like a walking pratfall. I’m not kidding. She would, inexplicably, end up stuck in a trashcan, Rubbermaid container, a box, or even flat in a hole – despite having SEEN the hole and despite having been warned about said hole. She never hurt herself, and she always laughed harder than anyone else. Often, until tears were running down her face. No one could laugh like my mother.
Of course, my mom wasn’t one to have an excess of things, unless she was giving those things to other people. (She liked to give.) However, she liked to be prepared, and she liked tradition – which brings us to the Mysterious Case of the Four Christmas Stockings (Nancy Drew’s lesser known caper). When my siblings and I were small, the whole family had this enormous stockings with our names emblazoned on them with glitter. There is a picture of me in mine as a baby, next to a stuffed monkey. Of course, nothing lasts forever. A few years ago, one of them tore, and my mom (in an effort to keep all things the same and equal) bought us all new stockings. My dad wrote all our names on them, again in glitter. (I should point out my father loathes glitter, so my mother probably forced him to do this.) We all now had backup stockings!
However, the following year, all of the stockings inexplicably vanished. No one could find them anywhere, especially not in the handy box labeled ‘Christmas Stockings.’ Which is not to be confused with the box I labeled ‘Christmas Shit.’ I am classy like that. And, apparently, I like to GUESS what’s in the box. Anyway, the stocking were gone, presumably off somewhere with Carmen Sandiego, assuring that we were stocking-less. My mother, of course, would have none of that. Again, she went out and bought brand new stockings. These were less fancy and labeled with a Sharpie. They were still quite awesome.
The year after THAT, only my mother’s stocking was missing, including the newest addition. So, she acquired a fourth stocking, which accounts the entire pile I unearthed this evening. Each stocking has a story, albeit a slightly silly one. Our traditions and our habits are all stuffed with memories. There isn’t a decoration that doesn’t remind me of my mother. And as I was decking the halls, I couldn’t help but here her voice say, “Are you SURE you want to put that THERE?” Because decorating was always something we did together. (Mostly, I think, because she didn’t trust me to get tangled in the lights. Or put things in silly, ill-advised places. Like that time I…*cough* NEVER MIND.) Even the wreath hanging on the door is something my mother made, something she loved. And yet, through all the things, it was the stocking that caught me off guard, that startled me the most. I think it’s because they don’t have a purpose anymore. They won’t be put out. They won’t be filled. It occurs to me, as I write this, that they need a new purpose. That they can, and should, be turned into something else. Something to be put out every Christmas, to retain the bit of magic that my mother always found in usefulness.
A person may be gone, and a stocking may be empty, but love never goes away – and emptiness is not the ending word. I just hope that I don’t hot glue my fingers together, when attempting to be crafty. Goodness knows, it was never a holiday in my house, unless someone got burnt. Or was nearly lit on fire. But that, darlings, is another tale.