Sunday, December 7, 2008

A Christmas Stocking Tradition

My mother-in-law, Margaret, who is no longer with us, was responsible for what turned out to be a beautiful Christmas tradition in our family. (Yes, she can be credited with more than just the "grapefruit stuff" I lamented about in a recent post!) 

For every one of her children, her children's spouses, her grandchildren, some of their spouses, and even a number of her great-grandchildren, Margaret would knit a unique woolen Christmas stocking...the really cool, old-fashioned kind with the person's name at the top and one or several Christmas-oriented pictures below. Some of the scenes represented are Santa as a jack-in-the-box, a candle-tree-wreath assortment, Santa carrying a Christmas tree, etc. The stockings even have designs on the back, like a trio of dangling ornaments, a tree with sequined "bulbs" on it, a moon and star, and so forth. She would often use sequins and beads to decorate these mantle-enhancing works of art.

Doing this labor of love for her family entailed a LOT of work, because she had three children, their three spouses, 13 grandchildren, a number of their spouses, and so many great-grandchildren that I'd have to get out pen and paper and the Christmas list to count them all! We loved her for creating these heartfelt gifts (and for many other things, of course), which is why we all felt so sad when she had to stop making them a few years before her death. It had all became a bit too much for her, and with no other knitters on the horizon, the stocking tradition was stopped in its tracks, so to speak.

Oh, we tried to find similar types of stockings and have them made, but none were even close to the same, neither in quality nor in the whimsy of the creations. Remember, Margaret made each one unique in some way. No two of my children's stockings are remotely alike.

With that background, I want to tell you that something pretty neat has happened. When my family and I were visiting Cape Cod (well, we actually stayed in Chatham), we ran across a children's store where a lady makes Christmas stockings to order. Let me say right now that they are not on a par with Margaret's, not in the least...and you can only pick from two patterns...but they are the most similar we have found. In fact, the two patterns are actually identical to two of the many Margaret used; it's just that Margaret got a lot more creative with them.

Barring the negative comparisons to good ol' Mom's, these are TERRIFIC stockings, and I just bought one for my new grandson, as well as my new son-in-law. I also replaced with glee the "poor substitutes" previously purchased for my other two grandchildren. (I chose not to replace the one for my daughter-in-law because even though it does look different, it's similar enough and continues to be a spectacular stocking in its own right.) Besides, it's BIG...and we like to give her lots of goodies in little tiny boxes.  =)

Aren't Christmas traditions THE BEST? As I hang up these stockings every year, I am reminded of my husband's mother and her unparalleled love for Christmas. She was like a child about this season, all but dancing up and down with excitement...and she was very good at sharing that excitement with me, my husband, and our say nothing of her unbeatable English toffee, chex mix, and caramel corn with nuts! 

Yep, Margaret was definitely Christmas magic. And we will be making some of our own magic tonight as we sit down for a yummy beef stew before we put on the Christmas music, pop the corn, and decorate our [REAL] tree with all the old bulbs that should have been thrown out years ago but whose sentimental value trumps their unsightliness. (kinda like me! heehee)

In times like these, it feels good to hold on to these traditions. For me and my family, they are life preservers.


Natalie said...

You may not be surprised to know that I too am very fond of family traditions. I have never thought of it in the way you described (life preservers), but as usual you are spot on. That is exactly what they are. Thanks for that thought! And, you seriously crack me up..."that should have been thrown out years ago but whose sentimental value trumps their unsightliness. (kinda like me! heehee)" You are funny! :)

Lisa Loo said...

Traditions are like family glue--don't you think?! I love the things that you find sentimental and cherish. Thanx for sharing!

Heather Anderson said...

I love this post. I didn't even know that those stockings were made by GiGi... that is so cool! I am excited to see the new ones for my kids :) And so excited to come up there and share in the many xmas traditions.

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