“Aunt Abby, did they have Christmas when you were a little girl like me?” Jules asked.
“Of course,” Aunt Abby sputtered almost choking on her eggnog.
“What part was your favorite part?” Constance asked climbing up on the couch next to Jules.
“Are we talking about Christmas?” Imogene yelled.
“YES,” Aunt Abby, Jules, and Constance yelled back.
Imogene ran in the room followed by Ellie and the boys: Bruce, Joshua, Jude, and Rook. They piled on the couch around Aunt Abby who had to help a few of the shorter ones up. As soon as they got all their fingers, toes, arms, noses, and legs sorted out and settled in, Aunt Abby shared a Christmas memory.
Once upon a time, Grammie and Grandpa didn’t have very much money. In fact, they were quite poor. While this caused no end of stress for Grammie and Grandpa, for their five kids—your mommies and daddies—life seemed magical and amazing. They lived on a farm with more land to roam than one could imagine. All their friends lived within walking distance, and they had so many animals.
“What kind of animals?” Constance asked.
“We had goats, chickens, geese, ducks, a cat, and a dog,” Aunt Abby said.
“You were there too?” Jude said, his blue eyes sparkling.
“Yes,” Jules said. “Remember, Grammie and Grandpa have five kids: Uncle Matt, Aunt Abby, Aunt Emily, Uncle Jason, my daddy, and Aunt Liz.”
“Oh . . .” Jude said still confused.
For the five kids, life was a perfect adventure. At Christmas time, they had to go cut down their own Christmas tree—
“Aunt Abby, you already told that story,” Ellie said.
“I know. I’m giving the context.”
They had to save up to buy little gifts for each other and often just had to make them. Aunt Liz was an expert in drawing pictures as gifts.
One of the five kids’ favorite things about Christmas was the stockings. Grammie, being the amazing Mom that she was, made each of the kids their own stocking. She cross-stitched a picture to go on front and then designed the body out of fabric. Matt and Jason’s stockings had matching snow scenes with sleders and skiers. One of their trees was only half-finished. Abby’s stocking originally had a girl with a sled full of puppies on it, but it didn’t work right. Grammie had to make her a girl in a green dress with a howling dog. Emily and Liz both had girls too.
But, the magical, most Christmas thing about the seven stockings hanging on the wall was their size. These were no little stockings meant to hold a few pieces of candy and tiny toys. No! These were giant stockings. Why you could fit a small child in one of them, they were so big.
“Would I fit in one?” Ellie said with a laugh.
“Nope, you’re too big.”
“What about me?” Joshua said, smiling his mischievous smile.
“Nope, you’re too big too. Rook might fit in one.”
Rook found this to be a delightful idea.
When Grammie and Grandpa were so poor, they had very little money to fill both the extra-large stockings and the empty spaces under the tree. That’s when the tradition was born. Grammie and Grandpa would only worry about the stockings. Everyone else worried about the tree. All the presents from grandparents, siblings, friends and especially Auntie Laurie covered the tree skirt in bright paper, ribbons, and bows. They never lacked for presents under the tree. But it was the stockings the five kids loved most.
And what did they find in those huge stockings, you ask? Oh, lots of amazing things. They found rope, calendars, their favorite chips, their favorite candy, fabric for new dresses or comforters, books, movies, hair clips, toys. Why, anything could fit in those stockings. Sometimes they even found socks.
“Socks? Jules said.
“Yep. When you’re poor you get socks for Christmas and you’re happy about it,” Aunt Abby said. “We also walked to school in the snow, up hills both ways.”
“What?” said Bruce. “I thought you were home schooled?”
“We were, Bruce. It’s an old family joke.”
“I don’t get it.”
Over the years, as the Lord blessed Grammie and Grandpa, the stockings held less socks and rope and more movies and video games and toys. But, no matter how old the five kids got, they never lost their love for those extra-large, magical stockings their Mama made by hand.
“Aunt Abby!” Jules gasped. “Are those the same stockings hanging over the fireplace?”
She jumped up off the couch and darted for the front room. The seven other nieces and nephews charge after her. There, hanging in front of Grandpa’s fireplace, were two stockings—one with a snow-covered bridge and the other with a horse-drawn sleigh.
“Look, they are giant,” Bruce said.
“They’re the magical stockings,” Constance said. Imogene and Ellie echoed her.
The eight nieces and nephews gingerly fingered the stockings of such legend and lore.
Grammie and Grandpa came into the room and saw them all gently touching.
“Grammie, your stockings are amazing,” Jules said.
“And so pretty,” Imogene said.
“And perfect for holding rope and socks,” said Bruce.
“I want socks for Christmas,” Joshua said.
“Can we be poor?” Jude asked
“Oh yes,” Ellie said. “Let’s be poor.”
“My mom’s always giving me socks,” Rook said happily. “I think I am poor!”
Aunt Abby and Grammie both stared at the eight little cousins. Aunt Abby burst out laughing. “Oh my, no no, you don’t want to be poor. What have I done?”
“I guess you told a good story if they all want to be poor,” Grammie said with a chuckle.
“Well, since they want to be poor,” Grandpa said. “I guess we’ll just take all their presents back to the store.”
“No!” All eight cousins said. “We don’t want to be that poor.”
Aunt Abby gathered them all up in a big family hug. “Merry Christmas, everyone!”