My parents are here for the holiday. We’re all having a grand time enjoying each other’s company. We all sort of hang out together and laugh and talk. We’ve already enjoyed many memory gaffes. But that’s not my best Christmas gift.
We did Christmas morning in our traditional way. Sort of. When I was growing up, the kids got up first. We’d rattle around just enough to wake up my parents. Then we’d get our stockings from the kitchen table. Yes, the table. First of all … we heated with wood and had wood stoves, so Santa would have burned his nether regions if he’d come down our chimneys. So we very thoughtfully left our stockings on the table. I don’t know how he came into our house. As we got older and learned the truth (that Santa is Satan, I mean that Santa isn’t real) we just kept leaving stockings on the table. So, us kids would get our stockings, plus Mom and Dad’s and take them up to my parents’ room. We’d all sit on their bed and open the stockings. When I was growing up stocking gifts were wrapped in newspaper. My parents have a gift with stockings … they do their best work with stocking gifts. They are inventive and silly; thoughtful and whimsical. I think that is my Dad’s contribution to Christmas, but I’m not entirely certain.
After stockings, we have breakfast. Then we’d feed and water all the animals … chickens, geese, cows, horses, dogs, cats, sheep. Some of the favored animals would often get a special treat or special ration of grain or something. Load the wood bins for the day. The woodstoves did not get any special wood. Clean up the kitchen and be dressed in decent clothes.
After all of that, the unwrapping of the gifts would commence. We went one gift at a time … youngest to oldest. Everyone had to wait turns and watch each person unwrap so we all knew what everyone got. This eternally confounded my maternal grandfather. He managed to call every year when we were about 1/3 of the way finished to talk to us. Every year he was surprised that we weren’t finished. Every year … Surprise! What?? He was of the rip and tear all at once theory. We did not ascribe to that theory. It was funny. And we all always laughed.
So … I am still the first person awake every Christmas morning. Still. At 46. What is wrong with me? I first woke up at 4:15 and decided that was silly. So I went back to sleep. I woke again at 5:30 and that was the end of that. So I got up and made a carafe full of coffee (3 french press pots), emptied the dishwasher for LightGirl and sat in front of the lit Christmas tree in awe. But that wasn’t my best gift
LightGirl was the next person up at 6:30 so she joined me with some hot chocolate, then LightBoy for some hot chocolate. We had a few minutes together with our drinks looking at the tree. But that wasn’t my best gift.
LightMom and LightDad came downstairs and we opened stockings that had been left (as we do) on the kitchen table. But we do this in the family room. It was so much fun to have them participating the stockings again … as I wrote above … it is their gift. But that wasn’t it either.
We did breakfast, cleaned up. And began opening. We were most of the way through when I got a gift with a tag that read: “This made Mom cry, but it will make you laugh. To Sonja Love from Mom & Dad” LightHusband jumped to get his camera. LightMom looked funny and I was not certain I wanted to open this package. If it made my mom cry, I was fairly certain I might cry too … and just what was contained herein that made my mom cry on Christmas?? It was all too mysterious … and squishy as well.
Then it was revealed and we all dissolved into howls of laughter.
The story goes like this: When I was a baby my mom knit me a stocking. It was the stocking I had all through my childhood. Until a small closet fire when I was about 10 years old. The fire was started by my little brother who was playing with matches. My stocking and my other brother’s stocking and other family things burned up. My mother burned her hand pretty badly, too. I think a lot of my dad’s things from his term of service in Alaska were destroyed. So the stockings were gone. Except for the brother’s who had started the fire. There is no justice. Oh wait. My mother was too busy by the time he came along to ever knit him a stocking. So now none of us had stockings. Maybe there was justice. But I mourned my stocking. I held no grudge, I just missed my stocking.
When I got married, I discovered that LightHusband had had the same stocking all his childhood that his mother had knit for him as a baby!! What are the chances? So my new mother-in-law knit me a matching stocking. I had a new treasure and I loved it because of it’s ties and significance.
When the babies started to come along in all of our siblings families I discovered that my mother had been hiding her light under a bushel all these years. My mother loved to knit! She became a knitting machine churning out tiny sweaters and hats and mittens for the grandchildren. Each one also got a personalized Christmas stocking. I don’t mean name either. She would change and modify the directions to make the stocking for each child personally. They are all beautiful. So are all the sweaters and hats and mittens. We have all treasured them.
Sometime less than 4 years ago, my mother surprised me with a replacement stocking for the one in my childhood. We can’t remember the exact year, but we know it was since the youngest of my nieces was born and she turned 5 this past June. But she forgot. We don’t know what happened … she just forgot that she’d done that. I didn’t. But then you never tell the recipient of a gift what you’re thinking. In my family of origin that principle gets carried out perhaps a little too far. You tell no one. We operate like the Dept. of Defense when it comes to Christmas. So my mother did not even mention this to LightHusband, because he would have known and reminded her.
So she planned and found the special wool (white angora) to make Santa’s beard. She knit away on their trip to Florida and back to visit my uncle this fall. She grinned happily when she read my philosophy on gifting on my blog. She was thrilled at her choice in gifts this year. She knew she had outdone herself. And … she had. Oh yes … she had.
She had outdone herself TWICE!! I am doubly blessed! So that is the story of my best Christmas gift … of 2007.
UPDATE – (written by visiting author LightMom) –
Once in a lifetime….I hope!
In the 50’s I started knitting Christmas Stockings for my nephews – nieces would arrive much later!
As our children were born (1961, 1963, 1nd 1965) I knit them what had become a favorite stocking with name, a Santa with angora beard, and crossed candy canes.
In the summer of 1969 with Sonja at camp and LightUncle1 visiting a friend, LightUncle2 (not quite 4) practiced lighting matches in the front closet of our home at Kent’s Corner. And, of course, the result was….fire! Fortunately for us the closet was lined with tongue and groove cedar boards and GrandPea and I were able to squelch the fire and throw much of the burning material out the door onto the lawn. Among the belongings that were too burned to save were Sonja and LightUncle2’s stockings. I suppose in the back of my mind I intended to replace them but ….it must have been w-a-a-y-y back!
LightUncle1 continued to use his stocking, and when his daughter was born in 2002 asked if I might knit one for her. I searched the internet and various knitting stores for the pattern, but it was not to be found. So, I did my best using LightUncle1’s as the model. He was satisfied, I was not. Since we are trying to get rid of the flotsam and jetsam that has accumulated over 45+ years, we are continually sorting through it all. And wa-la I found the original – now 50 year old – pattern.
So, I set about re-knitting LightNiece3’s stocking (I hadn’t liked the non-wool yarn I had used, either) and now (2004) one for her brother, LightNephew.
So, this Christmas I decided to start replacing the burned stockings and since we were due to spend Christmas with Sonja and family, hers would be for this year! So I set about the task, and a friend found me some faux angora. And it was actually completed before we boarded the train to D.C.
Sonja had written that she and her family were trying to move toward a less commercialized Christmas and she most wanted to give gifts that she made or were really relevent to the giver/givee. Ahh… I had the perfect gift!
So now…imagine my dismay when I walked in their home to find……………..all their stockings ‘hung with care..’ and one of them being a replacement stocking I had apparently knit around 2004 or 2005! I was crushed. This was to be my major gift to my daughter and it was now a mere ditto!
I decided I needed to ‘punt’. Instead of hanging the stocking after she went to bed Christmas Eve – my original plan – I wrapped it as a gift under the tree. The tag read, “love to Sonja from Mom and Dad. This will make your mother cry and you laugh.” I forewarned photographer son-in-law, LightHusband, to be ready with his camera.
And boy, did we laugh – the laughter went on for some time – we held our sides and wiped the tears and just let it roll. Even a ditto can be the best Christmas present ever!