Christmas is almost upon us and I’m feeling good about it. I’ve got my checklist pretty well marked up:
- Reroute a couple of paychecks to Amazon.com to take care of the far-flung friends and relatives.
- Sort through all the millions of toys my four-year-old has told me he wants, paring it down to the few that he will like well enough to make him forget the rest for a few days.
- Pick out gifts for my wife to the best of my ability as a husband.
- Practice looking contrite and saying “Sorry, Honey,” when my ability as a husband turns out to be typically husband-like.
The only things I haven’t quite gotten nailed down yet are stocking stuffers for the baby. Stocking stuffers for everybody else have been easy, but I’m having trouble finding little treats for infants. This probably shouldn’t worry me. After all, the child is not yet aware of a thing called Christmas, let alone that it should feature a stocking filled with goodies. A day of teething upon the packaging of his brother’s toys would be an unexpected windfall to him. He wouldn’t miss his stocking at all.
But I would. Stockings are an important Christmas tradition to me. When I was a kid, the only thing my siblings and I were allowed to open when we got up at, oh, say about 2 a.m., on Christmas morning were our stockings. My mother was an inspired stocking filler. The little delights she put in there got us through the hours until she and my father got up.
Then, there were cows to milk; presents had to wait because the cows’ utters wouldn’t. Then there was church. Those of us with enough foresight to choose to be on the Polish side of family that year might have gone to Christmas Eve Mass the day before. We got to play with the goodies from our stockings while we waited for the Germans to come back from church, because our Lutherans didn’t have a Christmas Eve service. We little ones were up for about eight hours before we got to open presents.
One year, when my older brothers played a practical joke by switching out my stocking stuffers for one raw onion, I retreated to a dark corner in the kitchen and cried like it was the end of the world. That was 40 years ago, but I remember it very well. Santa didn’t love me anymore, and it hurt. Even worse, I knew some boys in the next room who deserved an onion far more than I did, so where was the justice?
Even if my little guy doesn’t know about Christmas, or who Santa is, I want him to have a stocking full of happy things on Christmas morning. They may be little things, soon lost or forgotten, but I want to do my best to tell him that the people in his life, who are symbolized by Santa, love him dearly, and always will.