It's the day after Christmas, and I'm looking at a Christmas mantel that looks decidedly different this year. This is a bittersweet thing for me, this particular expression of the reality that "things change." This year, the stockings look different... because they are different.
Many years ago, as we married and began to have children, I began looking for Christmas stockings for our little family. I selected some beautiful needlepoint ones, and over the years it became harder and harder to find another... and then another... and then another... to match the rest. Whenever I found a needlepoint stocking, I bought it, whether we needed it right then or not! By the time my third child, OG, was born, we were desperate and without success until my sweet friend Niki saw one—at the drug store where she was working as a pharmacy technician, of all places!—and snatched it up for us.
Those stockings are precious to me. I love them. I love the sweet memories of having stuffed them full of fun "little nothings" for the ones I love. For many years now, they have hung along our mantel, perfectly spaced... the same exact way, every year.
Enter Ronald. Last Christmas Eve, Ronald showed up at the hospital where my daughter was having surgery before we even did. (It was the wee morning hours, still dark outside!) He was by her side, along with her parents and grandparents, all day long. He sat by her bedside and held her hand throughout the day, until my husband finally prodded him, late that evening, "Ronald, go be with your family. It's Christmas Eve!" We should have known then how serious things were, but since they'd only just had their first date a few weeks before, we hadn't realized it yet.
That's how it goes when old friends from church, who've known each other for years, finally have their first date!
This year, EV and Ronald are engaged, and we are feeling the "growing pains" of our last Christmas together as just our little family of six. Her heart is torn, half here and half there... she still lives in our home, but is busy preparing for her next one. Come February, our four walls will never be her four walls in the same way again. Our mantel will not be her mantel. Next Christmas, her stocking will not hang here... not really.
Facing this dilemma, I began to prepare for the inevitable—either removing EV's stocking from the line-up or adding one for Ron. The second option was far preferable to the first, but any stocking I would hang among that lineup of coordinated, matching needlepoint stockings was going to look sorely out of place! The last thing I wanted to accomplish was making him feel out of place!
And so, this year, in a deliberate move of inclusion, I bought all new stockings. The beautiful lineup of needlepoint treasures has moved to the staircase—a new holiday decoration that forever preserves for this Mommy's heart the lineup of stockings that graced our mantel for two decades. A season of our lives is ending, and it is a bittersweet thing to bid it farewell! It is a season I have loved very much... yet the children have grown and are maturing into women and men before my very eyes... and these stockings no longer hold us all.
We added a bunch of nails to the mantel—enough to include my dear father-in-law and eventual spouses for each of my children, should they all be married one day—and I bought matching pairs of stockings for each of them. They opened them on December 23 along with our annual Christmas PJs, and EV placed a stocking for Ronald next to her own on the mantel. I love how the nails just happened to work out so that, for now, the couples can hang together as a unit and still look relatively evenly spaced with the singletons!
It is a different look, to be sure, and I'm working hard to get used to it. For now, we've been working hard to give these new stockings their first year of "history," knowing that it's the memories that give them their true beauty anyway.
The thank you hug from my daughter "for working so hard to make Ronald feel included" is a good start!
And I can always walk around the corner to see the old ones, too...
Double the nostalgia... double the fun.
*Entry 2, The 12 Days of Christmas Blog Challenge
The title is a line from the famous poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas" by Clement Clarke Moore, but it is also a line from the song "Christmas Time Is Here" by Brian McKnight.