counting down to christmas
By Sally Breslin
I can’t help but still get excited about stockings
I’ve always loved the idea of Christmas stockings. Last year, my friend Nancy gave me one filled with everything from jewelry, postage stamps and lottery tickets to gift cards and cosmetics. When it comes to Christmas stockings, she definitely knows how to fill one.
I’ll never forget the first year I fully understood what Christmas stockings were all about. I was 3 years old, and my parents told me to hang the stocking on my bedpost (because we had no fireplace). Then Santa would creep into my bedroom after I fell asleep and fill the stocking with treats.
Sounded like a pretty neat idea to me. So that Christmas Eve, I eagerly hung my little red stocking on my bedpost and began the long wait for Santa. Every half-hour during that 200-hour night, I reached over to feel the stocking to see if Santa had been there yet.
For some reason, every time I opened my eyes, my mother was standing right by my bed, with her hands behind her back. When I’d cheerfully greet her, she’d roll her eyes, sigh and tell me to go to sleep or Santa never would come. When I opened my eyes again and saw her by my bed, I could swear she was sleeping standing up.
Finally, I managed to doze off, but within 20 minutes, I was awake and feeling my stocking. I gasped. It was full! I was so excited, I yanked it right off the bedpost and dashed into my parents’ bedroom.
“Mommy! Daddy! Santa came!” I cried, whacking my poor father right on the head with the stocking. “And look what he brought me!”
After that, my Christmas stockings always contained only soft items. I also remember trying to outsmart Santa when I was about 5. By then, I’d come to the conclusion that Christmas stockings were a pretty simple way to rake in a good haul if I used a little ingenuity.
So when it came time to hang my Christmas stocking, not only did I hang up a pair of my tights because they could hold more treats, I also unloaded my whole drawer of socks and hung them all over my room for my dolls. After all, I told myself, my dolls were my “babies.” Betsy Wetsy, Tiny Tears and Raggedy Ann all deserved a few treats, too, didn’t they?
When my mother saw all of the stockings hanging in my bedroom, however, she didn’t share my enthusiasm.
“I don’t think Santa will bring enough treats to our house to fill that many stockings,” she said. “You can’t be greedy. You want Santa to have enough left to fill the stockings of all of the other little boys and girls in the world, don’t you?”
Leave it to her to ruin what I thought was an ingenious idea.
When I was a newlywed, I decided to try to recapture the excitement of stocking hanging that I’d experienced during my childhood. I bought a festively decorated stocking for myself and a matching one for my husband, and carefully hung them near the Christmas tree. Then I threw hints.
“You know, when I was young,” I told my husband, “Santa used to fill my stocking with all kinds of things, like candy, little stuffed animals, inexpensive jewelry, things like that. It was so much fun to wake up on Christmas morning and discover all of the surprises!”
“That’s nice,” he said, not looking up from his reading. “We never did anything like that when I was a kid.”
“Then wouldn’t it be fun to do it this year?” I asked.
“Sure,” he said, still not looking up.
The week before Christmas, I went shopping and carefully selected all sorts of goodies to put into his stocking: tiny bottles of after-shave, his favorite candy bars, disposable shavers, a new leather watchband, baseball cards and more.
On Christmas morning, however, I was disappointed to find my stocking totally empty, flat as a pancake. As my husband eagerly dug into his, I just had to ask him, “How come you didn’t put anything in my stocking?”
He stopped what he was doing and just stared blankly at me. “Oh, you wanted ME to fill it? Why didn’t you say so? You know how bad I am at taking hints!”
In retrospect, I probably should have sent him over to my friend Nancy’s house for some lessons.