Friday, December 2, 2011

Making Christmas Stockings

“The stockings were hung by the chimney with care . . .” Clement C.Moore

The stockings appear early in this advent discussion because stockings must not be an afterthought.  You’ve got to be ready with your stocking because Santa fills it. And while you’re getting ready, you might want to think about the “Santa fills them” part, too.

My mother and dad worked together to create an aura surrounding Christmas. It was the time (after World War II), it was the place (an old Craftsman in a small town), it was the time of life (they were middle-aged), and it was their talents. It all came together in a Christmas celebration.

Mother loved to pretend, and she taught the truth about Santa the same way she taught the truth about fairies. “Don’t ever say there is no Santa Claus,” she said. “Santa is the spirit of giving that lives within us.” When I pressed for details about the North Pole, she was truthful but gave me to know we were indulging that fantasy. The less said the better – and don’t talk about it at school.

The stockings were an important part of the Christmas my mother made. Mother wrote that while the family was living in Oklahoma City in 1937, a friend gave her some white sheeting which she used to make stockings. They had a mantel, she said, so they hung stockings. And the same stockings – with more added – were hung year after year at the family home in Orofino.

In Mother’s imaginary world, Santa didn’t bring our wrapped gifts. Instead, Santa filled our stockings. In my earliest memories, the white stockings were laid out on an upstairs bed behind a closed door and filled surreptitiously by helpers. I was about three, I suppose, when she led me into that bedroom and had me put something in my dad’s stocking. “I wanted you to know when you were little how it was the stockings were filled,” she said.

In 1977, Mother decided on a change. She made stockings from crocheted granny squares and slipped the old white stockings inside as liners. She was vague about how she arrived at this idea. I suppose she saw a pattern for the stockings and it struck her fancy. I thought it was a huge project – crocheting all those squares for 25 stockings or so -- so I crocheted the squares for my own family. My children were being born in this timeframe, and so were some of the great-grandchildren, so I also made a pastel generic baby stocking. In an age when we didn’t know the baby’s sex in advance, it had the benefit of giving us an extra year to deal with a stocking for the new little “whatever.” All of this seems a lifetime ago.

As Mother moved from the family home, we divided the stockings into family groups with the extras added in here and there. I have those I made for my own family plus a few that Mother made.

So, when we added Nick, Hallie’s husband, to our Christmas celebration, I had a stocking that I assigned to him, thinking nothing of it. But he perceived how originally we had all had our own stocking and requested one of his own – and rightly so. So, Hallie is making one for him using a granny square pattern and yarn colors that he chose. The granny square stockings have to be lined in order to hold the loot, so we’ll see. Mrs. Claus might be sewing into the late hours of Christmas Eve in order to meet Santa’s deadline.

I thought perhaps the time had come for us to shift from the old granny square stockings, but Hallie said no. She said she didn’t want to change from the stocking she’s always had. And in thinking about it I concluded that a stocking is a stocking. What we can do with that is somewhat limited. KW

[Photo 1: Taken in 1974, this photo shows the white stockings still in use. I'm in the plaid suit.
Photo 2: Taken in 1977, which I believe was the first Christmas we used the granny square stockings. It's not very clear, but I see "Lamb E. Pie" in the top of the baby stocking which was meant for my baby. Milo wasn't born until Dec. 30. He celebrated two "first Christmases."
Photo 3: Mike and I sit together to open our Christmas stockings at our house in 1992, while Mother is busy with hers. Note the patterns in the top of my stocking. Does Santa know what I like or what????]


Hallie said...

All of Nick's squares are complete! Now I just need to sew them together. It will be in the mail to Mrs. Claus with plenty of time!

Kathy said...

And guess what!! Mrs. Claus discovered she has one of the white liners ready and waiting.

Chris said...

We didn't have stockings growing up, but I always knew you did. When we moved to Lewiston, I had some red fabric left from a bathrobe I had made myself, so I stitched up a couple of stockings for Matt and Ann. Thus began *our* stocking tradition, which has continued. Thanks!

Hallie said...

Why is Grandma using that red and white stocking? What about her green stocking that you showed me?

Kathy said...

I expected you would notice the red and white stocking. I was relieved to see she had a better stocking than the green one we discussed, which was cute but kinda small. And just as I began writing this I actually remembered that the green one was the one she used in the dining room at Evergreen Estates.