MEGAN NICOL REED
On Yuletide traditions
n the close and comfortable cradle of our immediate family it had come to seem so normal, so terribly reasonable. Until we had to explain it. Not just explain it but sell it to them. For it was imperative they were on board or nothing would be the same, nothing would be the same and everything, absolutely everything, would be ruined. You see my parents have gone in on a bach with friends of my husband and me (yes, I know it’s a little unusual) and it was suggested to mark their first Christmas as co-holiday home owners we should all celebrate it together. My children were aghast. But what about…? Shush, I soothed. We’ll still stick to all our traditions. We’ll still leave out beer for Santa and carrots for Rudolph. We’ll still have two kinds of granola and mango and raspberries and runny cream for breakfast. And the stockings, they cried, don’t forget the stockings. Of course not, I said. We can’t forget the stockings.
Early in November I received an email from my editor. “Just wondered if you could do your Dec 8 column with a Xmas theme, sugarpie,” she wrote. She listed some random Yuletidey thoughts. “Also,” she added, “when do we have to stop the Christmas stocking? Growing up, I seem to recall the stockings stopped at Zero Santa Consciousness.” She specified an age for this of 11.
I felt a little nauseous. Kind of like the time my best friend’s big sister sweepingly announced that lace teddies were passe and I had just put my first one on lay-buy. Do you think they’ll go for it, I asked my husband. The stockings? Don’t worry, he said. I’ve already told them. And it’s fine, they have them too. Really, I said. Everyone gets a stocking? Not just the kids but the adults and the animals?
It was me who started it. For several years, my mother had broached the subject. That was the last time, she’d say, as she packed away the lights. You’re too old. Nooo, my brother and I would wail. We’re agreed then, she’d say around October, no stockings. Just one more Christmas, we’d wheedle. Oh we love them so. Megan, she’d say with a defeated sigh, you’re 21. Seeing my mother was at the end of her maternal tether, I had a brainwave. If we got them stockings, too, the parents, then the tradition would have to continue. Twenty-ish years on, it’s still going strong, a whole bedrock of rules anchoring it firmly in place.
You’re okay, I said to our friends, with the stockings? Yes, they said. Our girls have stockings. We always put an orange in the toe. No, no, no, I said, everyone has to have a stocking, both of you, the dog. Everyone! Right, they said. And what goes in them?
Well, I said. Something to eat, something to read, something to wear, something to play with, some scratchies (not for the children) and a bag of chocolate coins. Oh and “care” – some sort of beauty product. Scratchies, said my friend. That’s a bit tacky. (Not as tacky, I thought, as the fact that while my mother hand-made beautiful corduroy and velvet stockings for my brother and I and her grandchildren as babies and I bought them colourful felt ones, my husband gets the lurid satin stocking she whipped up for my boyfriend before him.)
You’ll love it, I said.
You wrote with tales of misfortune at your own hand and of ill done to you or a loved one, of those who stepped up, spoke out, came to the rescue, and those who didn’t. Johannes hopes his story will stir us all into action whenever we see someone in distress. “I was at the start of my legal career and my wife and I had bought a house to accommodate our growing family. The realtor who sold us the house lived nearby and we had become quite friendly. After a busy day in court I was on my way home and had to drop off some documents at his house. His wife opened the door and said she needed to talk to me. I said I couldn’t. I was already late and I still needed to go to my weekly Rotary meeting.” Johannes gave her the documents and left. Two days later the woman took her own life. “To say that I was devastated is an understatement, and for the past 45 years I have asked myself, over and over again, ‘What if… ?’”
We’re agreed then, she’d say around October, no stockings. Just one more Christmas, we’d wheedle. Oh we love them so.
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