11. October 2005 · Comments Off on Christmas Stockings · Categories: Domestic, General

Well, that is my project for the next few weeks or so— Christmas stockings for all of us, Mom and Dad and JP and I, plus Pip and Sander, and all our in-laws, significant others and offspring. I am doing my best at replicating the knitted stockings that Granny Jessie made for us, about the time that JP was born— Dad had come back from Korea, and he and Mom and JP and I were well embarked on that mid-20th century, baby-boomer suburban American family life, complete down to the station wagon and little white house with a swing-set in the back yard. Mine and JP’s, and Mom’s and Dad’s were all alike, from the same pattern and done all at once. Those she did first were red, with white toes and heels, and tops, with our names worked into the tops in red letters, and loops with little pom-poms, out of heavy-weight cotton yarn, and a green-felt Christmas tree sewn with multi-colored sequins carefully stitched into the mid-shin part of the stocking.

Five years later, she unshipped the knitting needles and the seasonal patterns and did a stocking for Pip, in green acrylic, with Santa knitted into the shin portion— Santa had a white wooly mohair beard— but by the time Sander made his entrée, Granny Jessie seemed to have lost all interest in knitting (although for the infant Cpl. Blondie, she did blow the dust off the needles and shoo the moths out of the yarn hanks long enough to knit a salmon-pink matinee-jacket). Sander made do with a commercially procured stocking— it was, I think, a freebie from an upscale gourmet-food provider like Harry & David, and when we put out the Christmas things every year, I always felt regretful that my dear baby brother did not have a proper knitted Christmas stocking with his name knitted into the top, as the rest of us did.

I couldn’t knit for shit, myself. This was proved abundantly when I was a Brownie Scout, and it was decreed that we should all knit a little six-inch square. Each of our six-inch-square output would be crocheted together into a baby blanket for some unfortunate… and truly the unfortunate that depended on our output, for mine emerged painfully and looked like nothing so much like a well-used string washrag… no, I realized that knitting was not my skill, and from the alacrity with which both my grandmothers gave it up, I suspect it was not their skill… or their interest, either. It was just something that was dunned into them as something they were expected to do… and which they did, rather grudgingly, for as long as it was expected and not a moment longer. I myself bought a knitted Christmas stocking for Blondie, at one of those country craft stores in Layton, Utah, early in the 1990ies— red and white stripes with a black cat knitted into it. I took some red crewel-embroidery yarn left over from another project, and wove her name in chain-stitch into to the top of it, and there was her Christmas stocking, but hers and all the others burned up, in the Valley Center fire that took Mom and Dad’s house, two years ago this month.

Oddly enough, it was the Christmas things which Blondie and I first agreed that we felt the loss of, most grievously. We always tried to be home at Mom and Dad’s at Christmas— that eclectic assortment; the antique Santa-shaped light-bulbs, the ornaments that JP and I had made in grade school, the things I had set from Europe— all of those were dear, and familiar. The stockings, and an assortment of not terribly valuable Christmas ornaments, all packed into a couple of battered cardboard boxes, stowed in the rafters of the garage— the garage, of course, was the first to go. Mom went through the house, calmly and rationally picking out the things that could be easily transported, and which were not replaceable, and packed them into her car, along with the dogs and cats. The firemen later grabbed an assortment of framed photographs and bundled them into a scorched and grubby bed-sheet, but who would have thought about the Christmas things?

Mom missed some things that I think of with a pang— her wedding dress, the family christening dress, the huge box of newly-sorted and identified snapshots and pictures, the fragile little Victorian flower-holder, trimmed with tiny china apples— but only things. Dearly familiar, much-loved things, reminiscent of our past, the ancestors that have gone before us, but at the end of all things…. Merely and only things. We replace what we can, and build again; the new house is all but finished, nearly two years after the fire. I am cutting out holiday shapes from scraps of green, white and red felt, and running miles of zig-zag stitching through my sewing machine. For Mom and Dad, Pip and her husband, JP and his wife; it’s easy enough to rebuild, when the family is safe and whole, and resilient. We got way very lightly, as disasters go; there is nothing like worse happening in other places to keep you from feeling sorry for yourself.

(I am slightly tempted to ornament the stockings for William and my brother-in-law with a motif of two small round Christmas ornaments, on either side of an oval one… William and my father would be no end amused, but I hate to take a chance on my brother-in-laws’ sense of humor being a ribald one.)

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