From Chicken Soup for the Mother's Soul 2

Mother’s Christmas Stocking

My sister Trudy and I snuggled close and giggled at our predicament. We were too big to fit under the Christmas tree, especially with all the piles of presents, so we slept around the Christmas tree instead. Actually we were more in the middle of our mobile home’s modest living room floor. But it was tradition—we just had to sleep under the tree on Christmas Eve—even if we were ten and twelve. My eight-year-old brother, Ashley, was already asleep. He had pretended to be too grown-up to be excited about sleeping on the living room floor. And being the lowest in the pecking order, he had been assigned the spot farthest from the tree—squashed between an older sister and the coffee table that was pushed to the side to make more room.

Trudy was the most likely to have her head between brightly wrapped boxes with fragrant cedar boughs scratching against her cheek. I was happy to be protected on both sides by warm bodies, and of course Breanna, our three-year-old baby sister, was given the safest and most comfortable spot of all. Breanna was sleeping soundly, curled on the couch hugging an oversized teddy bear.

Trudy and I lay whispering to each other, discussing what we expected to get in our stockings the next morning and guessing what was in each of our already well-shaken packages. We gazed at the four flannel stockings hanging limply by the fireplace, and we realized that one was missing. Weren’t there five people in our family? How come Mommy didn’t have a stocking?

She had told us that when she was a little girl her family didn’t hang stockings on Christmas Eve because they were a “no-nonsense family.” We were glad our family was a “nonsense” family, and we figured Mommy deserved to be a part of the tradition she had created for us. It was then that an idea hatched between us that would forever change the way we would see Christmas and, more importantly, giving.

Quickly Trudy woke Breanna, and I hurried to wake Ashley. Trudy piled our pillows to one side and smoothed out the quilt for us to have our conference. Her enthusiasm sparked our own. Amidst smothered giggles and excited exclamations of “Oh—yes,” and “That would be perfect,” we planned Mother’s stocking. For several minutes we scattered to go on a treasure hunt through our possessions, returning with only our very best. Now began the task of assessing their potential significance to Mother.

Breanna brought her candy box. We picked through the half-sucked peppermint sticks and found a handful of unwrapped Santa chocolates and a mammoth fruit-striped candy cane. Trudy suggested we write explanations on Post-It notes and stick one on each gift. I wrote in neat, rounded letters, “For your sweet cravings,” and pressed it on Breanna’s carefully wrapped, but crinkled, package of chocolates. We put this into the toe of an old, oversized, red wool sock Ashley found in the coat closet and stuck the candy cane inside so that the neck hooked over the side.

Ashley brought two of his favorite toy cars and told us they were for when Mommy’s car broke down. Now she would always have two extras. Trudy wrote the explanation for him.

I brought a package of cabbage seeds and wrote around the packet edge, “So you will always have fresh seeds of Inspiration.” I put the packet in a small terra-cotta pot that I had painted at school and slid it into the red stocking on top of the toy cars.

Trudy crafted a little creature out of a round river rock the size of a hazelnut. She painted face features, glued wiggly eyes, wrapped it in a miniature plaid blanket and wrote a set of tiny adoption papers for “Herman Periwinkle.” That was so Mommy would always have a baby, because she often complained that her real baby was growing up too fast.

After adding a few loose coins, pretty bird feathers and a small peach-scented sachet for good measure, we hung Mom’s sock on the highest nail and left Trudy’s stocking on top of the wood box. Then we stepped back to admire the lumpy sock—only one thing was missing. Trudy climbed back up on the wood box and safety-pinned a note to the outside of the sock that said, “To: Mother Santa Claus—From: The T.A.A.B. Elves.” She was proud of her acronym for our names, and we were all so excited we could hardly sleep.

In the morning, we rushed right past our now-bulging stockings, straight into Mom’s bedroom. In our excitement we forgot to knock and tumbled, yelling “Merry Christmas!” onto her bed. Mother was sitting up against the headboard, her treasures spread about her, and tears running down her face. She was holding Herman Periwinkle. When she looked up at us, she smiled her biggest smile and formed the words “Thank you,” though they were too soft to be audible.

We clambered over each other to get to her, and she kissed us all and hugged us, laughing and crying at the same time. It was so unlike her usual calm manner. But we understood. It was her first-ever Christmas stocking.

Amberley Howe

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