Wednesday, December 2, 2009

In Hopes that Saint Nicholas

Because the gas log is often blazing this time of year, the stockings are not hung by the chimney, but rather on the piano. They barely fit; Blake's spartan red stocking of fake fur, sparse in decoration but deep and wide in volume, hangs around the corner on one end. Lizzie's stocking, a snowman waving from his mitten, anchors the other end. In between there is a rainbow of felt, sequins and applique', evidence of a large and blessed attendance in the front room on Christmas morn.
My old stocking was handmade by a friend of my grandmother's. The felt and sequins are not so bountiful or bright as the newer stockings of the kids'. But my favorite part are the little bells, three of them, that tinkle sweetly from its sole. Our stockings hung from two knobs on a little clock shelf above the rocking loveseat. Standing on it was verboten, but the rules were relaxed during the holiday season; or maybe no one noticed the times I stood up on the couch and felt the toe of my stocking or even took it down to see if Santa had left a downpayment on Christmas. He never did, but the sock was always full of delightful tidbits on Christmas morning. Maybe there were matchbox cars, or handblown glass animals, or little carved animals, or a teaset inside a wooden apple. I don't know where "Santa" found the fascinating trinkets, but they were always creative and some of my favorite gifts. Later, when we girls were in high school and college, we could always count on Santa for pretty earrings and new undies;for propriety's sake, I can only assume that Mrs. Santa took care of those purchases.
Its fun to be Santa. The items in the stockings may be necessary to happiness, but they shouldn't be necessary to survival. The small pleasures abound; new socks, lotions from Bath and Body Works, new favorite pens, esoteric kitchen tools, paperback books, music in all its evolving forms. Rolls of film have mutated into memory cards. For years, Santa has brought my husband replacements for whatever pliers and wrenches he sacrificed to the corn field and combine gods. New gloves have been de rigeur.
And now Santa has a whole new crop of little people to bring presents for. Little folks to help pick out the iced cookies to leave on the plate. An audience to gasp and point when Santa comes by on Christmas Eve and tromps across the icy yard and down the icy street. New listeners to the beloved phrases of the poem, 'twas the night before Christmas'. New imaginations to ponder how Santa gets in the house (no mystery here; he comes in the front door!)
For many years, we spent our Christmas eves the same way. First, a soup supper at Millie's to celebrate Grandpa Hurst's Christmas Eve birthday. Then, family Communion at church. Then the family would fragment to different destinations, finally reconvening at Grandma Nelson's house after the St. John's Sunday school program. Late in the evening, we'd stop by and pin our wishes on the Yule log at Janice and Bruce's. Finally, in the quiet and chill of night, we'd come home and get ready to head for bed. Maybe I'd still have a coffeecake to cook; maybe I'd still have one to frost. But even if I didn't, I'd linger in the kitchen until all the bedroom lights went out and the house was quiet.
Then, Santa would head down to the basement and bring up the bags of toys. The socks, toys, books, and little gewgaws would be arranged with all the love and care a mom/wife could muster and with the smiling knowledge of the pleasure the pj-ed recipients would get from them in the morning, whether the sun was up or not. Santa would get her cup of coffee and her camera and begin her very Merry Christmas to all....

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