I've had that stocking since I was a baby. It was a gift on my first Christmas from my grandma's friend Gene Steussy. I don't know if Mrs. Steussy crafted this stocking herself -- she was, and probably still is, one of those women who can do anything, up to and including being an extremely talented photographer -- or whether she bought it, but wherever it came from, one showed up for Pat a few years later, only I didn't feel the need to take a picture of his. It's on the other side of the fireplace. The side without the Christmas tree, the nativity and all the prettily wrapped presents. I guess we all know who the favorite child is, don't we?
Because, as I mentioned, that stocking hanging there is only for show. It has not been filled since the year I got married, which was 1991.
That Christmas long ago, my husband and I arrived at my parents' house on Christmas morning and I was gleefully anticipating a pile of gifts, as usual, plus my crammed-to-bursting stocking. Mom always filled it with lovely things like People magazine's Best and Worst issue (a publication which I am too snooty and highbrow to buy for myself, but which I read with secret avidity at the dentist's office), fingernail polishes, makeup, cute jewelry, candy and always-always-always a new toothbrush and a tube of toothpaste. I don't know what Pat got in his stocking. Boys always have such dumb stuff, don't they?
Anyway, I was most disappointed to see my stocking hanging there by that very fireplace, looking exactly the way it does in my photo -- flat, decorative and not bursting with opportunity.
"Hey!" I said indignantly. "Why is my stocking hanging there looking so flat, decorative and devoid of opportunity?"
"Because you're married now," my mother replied calmly, obviously having rehearsed this conversation in her head.
"What's that got to do with anything?" I scowled.
My dad joined my mom. "Since you're married, that means you're a grown up and grown ups don't need Christmas stocking gifts."
Pat was at that moment tenderly lifting his stocking from the hearth. It was so heavy and laden with gifts, the felt loop that held it to the mantel hook wouldn't hold it and Santa had propped it up against the bricks. He looked over his shoulder and gave me a smirk. "On the other hand," he said, "I am still a child and, hey! My stocking seems a lot FULLER this year than it's ever been before!"
My voice immediately rose in a familiar tone. "Mo-o-o-om, did you hear him? He's taunting me about those stocking gifts!"
"Pat, don't taunt your sister," my dad said absently, his eyes fastened on some new electronic device he'd just opened.
"Gosh, it's so heavy, I can barely carry it back to the couch!" With an ooomph noise, he dropped it on a seat cushion and little gifts scattered everywhere. "Wow, it's going to take me a while to open all these. I'd better save them, kind of do them in shifts throughout the day."
"You could get carpal tunnel syndrome from all that repetitive opening," my husband grinned. He cut his eyes over at me, caught a glimpse of my expression, and immediately fell silent.
"Quit fussing, darlings," said my mother, who was passing out the gifts she'd pulled from under the tree. "Now, who wants to be first?"
"ME!" I yelled.
"ME!" Pat hollered.
"Have they always been this spoiled?" my husband asked my father.
"Yes," he said. "I blame their mother. It's all her fault."
That was the first sad, stocking-less year and each year following has been equally bereft. The only good thing I can say is that Pat and Angie were married by next Christmas and he didn't get a stocking anymore either and hahahahahahaha.
Christmas makes children of us all!