Category Archives: Christmas Stocking

Believe

Believe

I don’t know of anyone who loves Christmas as much as my mother did. She could barely wait for Thanksgiving to be over to put up her tree. Those trees were covered with icicles, bubble lights, angel hair and boxes and boxes of ornaments saved and added to over the years: blue or pink plastic birds whose legs fit over the branches so they seemed to be standing on them, a treetop angel with spun white hair and a face cracked and marbled over with age, strands of large lights and later dozens of strands of miniature ones, homemade ornaments, glass balls, plastic stars, candy canes—each year the number of ornaments grew. The tree was always fresh and the largest she could find, screwed into the Christmas tree holder that held water to keep the needles from falling off for as long as possible.

Under the tree was always a skirt of White pull-apart Christmas “snow,” a plastic church that lit up inside and presents, presents, presents: handmade gifts from the church bazaar, clothes and toys purchased in Pierre, 60 miles away or ordered from the Montgomery Wards or Sears catalogs. The tree went up the day after Thanksgiving and came down only after the new year had arrived, but the pine needles in the carpet crevasses and its borders along the wall remained like hidden memories to be discovered for months afterwards.

The year my mother died, my sister Patti could not bear to think of putting up a tree or celebrating Christmas. I was far away in Mexico and it was the first year in her life that she hadn’t celebrated Christmas with my mother. I knew she was grieving, but I was deep in my own sadness of the past year. In January, I had a hysterectomy and on the day I returned from the hospital, I learned that my mother had gone into the hospital.

My doctor had forbidden air travel but we considered putting a mattress in the back of the van and having my husband drive me from California to Wyoming, but my sister assured me there was no need. It was nothing serious—just a bout of pneumonia. We’d been there for Christmas less than a month before and we could come again once my mother returned home from the hospital.

But that trip was never to be experienced, for within a week, my mother had passed away. In March, my husband Bob flew to Michigan to be with his mother who had gone into the hospital, and after ten days, she, too, passed away. Then in September, two days before we were to drive down to Mexico to move into our new house, Bob discovered he had cancer and lived just three weeks. All-in-all, a sad year that had been moderated by our happiness in looking forward to a new life in Mexico.

A few months after Bob’s death, I went forward into that new life, but my sister was left in the town where she and her husband lived and where my mother had lived for the last six years of her life. Everything around her reminded her of my mother; and with the advent of Christmas, those memories grew more poignant.

The small Wyoming town where my sister lives is two hours south of Billings, Montana, which is her usual shopping town and where she goes to get her hair cut and to the doctor. A few weeks before Christmas, when a friend asked her to accompany her on a shopping trip there, she agreed. Even though her heart was not in it, as they browsed in a local store, she bought a few items, paid for them with her credit card and carried the bag to the car.

It was not until she got home and unpacked the bag that she found the small  package in the bottom of her bag. She unwrapped it, trying to figure out just what it was––nothing, surely, that she had purchased. As she removed the final layer of paper, this is what was revealed:

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Where had it come from? How had it gotten into the bag? She had not purchased it. It was not listed on her receipt. Nor had her friend purchased it, so it wasn’t a case of the clerk putting it in the wrong bag.  Was it the last Christmas miracle provided by a mother who over the years had so faithfully purchased the new boxes of fragile icicles to hang above wrapped boxes that contained dolls, new Christmas dresses, ice skates, princess phones, bottles of bubble bath or miniature formals for our favorite dolls? Skunk games and paper dolls and books, first watches, necklaces, music boxes and drop seat pajamas? With no other explanation, my sister could not help but consider that perhaps it was a little message from my mother, urging her not to give up her faith in and enjoyment of Christmas.

It has been fourteen years since my mother died, and my sister has hung the ornament on her tree every Christmas since. It has been a few years since I spent Christmas with her, and I had forgotten this story, but yesterday, when I arrived in Phoenix to spend Christmas and took pictures of her tree, she repeated the story again.

Her tree is miniature in comparison with my mother’s tree, but it is infused with my mother’s love of Christmas and everything it entails —a childlike sense of wonder that to this very day, my mother encourages us to share. Tonight, as my sister and I fill stockings for each other, her husband Jim and the longtime friends who will arrive tomorrow, I’m sure she feels as I do––both of us “good girls” who are minding our mother by remembering to BELIEVE in the magic of Christmas.

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For more Christmas trees around the world, see: http://silverthreading.com/2015/12/06/christmas-trees-around-the-world/

and, consider posting a picture of your tree-topper HERE in Hugh’s blog to provide a meal for a hungry dog.

A Christmas Gift for You All!

A Christmas Gift for You All!!!

I have been combing my brain trying to think of some gift I could give you all to thank you for your support over the past year and it suddenly occurred to me that I had the perfect one already made. Below, I am presenting my entire Christmas storybook, minus the pictures (except for one) in the hope that you will read it aloud to someone you love this Christmas. 

The other day I got a fan letter from the uncle of a two-year-old who laughs out loud every time they mention Aunt Knox and demanded that it be read to her every night for three nights in a row.  (What has happened since then, I do not know.) I also received a video of an 8-year-old reading it aloud (without faltering over one word) except, with typical 8-year-old humor, he substituted “spanking” for the word “sox” every time, in spite of the protestations of his Grandma. His younger brother thought he was hilarious, so perhaps it was a kid thing.

So, here it is, my present to you.  What you do in the way of altering it to suit your own brand of humor is up to you.  I am also including one illustration so you can get a mental image of Aunt Knox! The cover is pictured on my “Children’s Books” page on this blog if you crave seeing one more illustration by the talented Isidro Xilonzóchitl. There are 16 in all in the book.  He did have fun with the gift-listing ones!!

I also just received his illustrations for our next book, which I hope will be out by April.

Copyright© Judy Dykstra-Brown, 2014. (please do not transmit in its entirety in any form. If you wish to reprint an excerpt, please include a pingback to the original.)

Sock Talk
(A Christmas Story)

by
Judy Dykstra-Brown

I’d heard the story many times
of Great Aunt Knox’s beastly crimes—
toward Mom, who, as a kid like me
was as upset as she could be
whenever she received a box
from her Aunt Knox.

For, in tinsel or in birthday wrap,
in ribbon or in mailing strap,
whatever it came wrapped up in,
whatever the gift could have been,
twice a year from her Aunt Knox,
my mom got sox.

I wished that I could have some talks
with this Aunt Knox.
“Aunt Knox,” I’d say while we were talking,
“a Christmas gift goes in a stocking,
not the other way around.
Stockings never should be found
inside a present,
’cause it’s not pleasant
to wait and wait and wait and wait
for the proper opening date
just to open up a box
of sox!”

Of course, these talks were all imaginary.
I was never even very
sure of whether Great Aunt Knox was still alive.
I didn’t know how long a great aunt could survive.
So when my mother got a letter
from Aunt Knox and said, “I’d better
ask her here, I haven’t seen her for so long.”
“I was wrong,”
I thought, “the dread Aunt Knox
still walks!”
And when Aunt Knox called up to say
she’d visit us for Christmas day,
I knew that this would be the year
I’d bend her ear.

I went to buy Aunt Knox perfume
and put fresh flowers in my room.
I’d even give Aunt Knox my bed
and sleep upon the floor instead.
But it was still hard to believe
that in our house on Christmas Eve
I’d finally have those long-planned talks
with my Aunt Knox.

Blog Sock Talk

I’d never met Aunt Knox before,
but when I met her at the door,
she gave my nose a playful tweak,
and ruffed my hair and kissed my cheek.
(Aunt Knox’s kiss was surely wet.)
She asked me what I hoped to get
for Christmas. Then she pulled me near
and cupped her ear.

“She’s kind of deaf,” my mother said,
So I got right up beside her head
and shouted to my Auntie Knox,
“I wouldn’t mind a bird that talks,
a sand pail or a music box,
a robot that both speaks and walks,
a diary with keys and locks,
a tumbler that can polish rocks,
some overalls or painters’ smocks,

but you know what?” I said, “Aunt Knox,
when I rip into a box,
It seems as bad as chickenpox
to just get sox.”

I asked her if she understood.
She smiled and said she surely could.
She asked what else and bent her head
closer to me, so I said,
“I’d like lots of other things:
paints, crayons, ruby rings,
a horse, a Barbie doll, some books,
a new toy oven that really cooks,
a ball, some blocks, a jigsaw puzzle,
a baby crocodile with muzzle,
bubbles, bracelets, purses, beads,
comic books, sunflower seeds,
a kid’s Mercedes just my size,
or even a Crackerjack surprise
I could accept
except,
please,” (And here I gave her hand a squeeze,)
“please, please,
Aunt Knox,
don’t give me sox!”

She rose and said she’d heard enough,
although she’d missed some of the stuff
I’d said because she’s hard of hearing.
She said with Christmas quickly nearing,
she’d be off to do some shopping,
and she assured me she’d be stopping
for a special gift for me.

And sure enough, beneath the tree
that night there was a package wrapped,
my name on it. I poked and tapped.
I squeezed and shook it, poked its side,
but never could I quite decide
what it was. She wouldn’t say.
She said to wait till Christmas day.
At bedtime, though, she kissed my ear
and said, “It’s on your list, my dear.”

All night I lay upon the floor
listening to Aunt Knox snore.
I didn’t mind the noise at all
’cause I was sure she’d bought the doll.
And just before I fell to sleep
I prayed the Lord Aunt Knox to keep
safe from harm
and dry and warm.

On Christmas morning, while Aunt Knox dressed,
we pushed and prodded, shook and guessed
what was tied up in each bow.
And my Aunt Knox was surely slow.
I ran upstairs three times or four
and knocked and knocked upon her door
while Aunt Knox said that she’d be there
after she had curled her hair.

I thought Aunt Knox was never coming.
My brother drove me crazy drumming.
So when Dad joined in his prum prum prumming
I accidentally elbowed Roy
to the beat of “Little Drummer Boy.”
Then mother almost made me go
upstairs to bed again and so
our Christmas started sort of slow.

Then, finally, Aunt Knox came down
attired in her morning gown
to give my nose another tweak,
to ruff my hair and kiss my cheek—
a wet one, but I didn’t care,
’cause my Aunt Knox was finally there!
I grabbed my present from the tree,
the one Aunt Knox had bought for me.
Again, her words rang in my ear.
She’d said, “It’s on your list, my dear.”

I couldn’t wait to see in it.
I wondered what could be in it.
Perhaps it was a bird that talks,
a sand pail or a music box,
a robot that both speaks and walks,
a diary with keys and locks,
a tumbler that can polish rocks,
some overalls or painters’ smocks.
But when I opened up that box,
my Aunt Knox
had bought me sox!!!!

A dozen pair were there inside—
sox long,sox short, sox thin and wide.
The clock advanced by tics and tocks
as I glared up at mean Aunt Knox,
but I couldn’t think of a word to say
appropriate to Christmas day.

“Well, try them on,” my mother said,
but I just nudged the box instead.
I’d had such fantasies of dolls
and ruby rings and bowling balls.

Then Aunt Knox came and kissed my head.
She’d meant to give a doll, she said,
till she remembered that in our talks
she was sure I’d mentioned sox
many times, while she could not recall
whether I had mentioned doll
at all.

“Why don’t you try them on, my dear?”
my Aunt Knox asked with awful cheer.
And she was grinning ear to ear
as she held out some sox with seals
emblazoned on their toes and heels.
I took them as my brother Roy
gleefully unwrapped his toy.
The robot that both speaks and walks
was what he got from Great Aunt Knox.

“Do try them on,” my mother said,
but I just stood and hung my head.
I could have gotten something great.
Instead, these sox would be my fate
forever, like a family curse.
I tried to think of something worse
but couldn’t. And I rued the day I’d had those talks
with my Aunt Knox.

Meanwhile, Mom was rifling through
sox red and yellow, pink and blue
to pull a pair of lumpy sox
from the bottom of my Christmas box.
“Why don’t you try these on?” she said.
The sox were gray with purple thread
around the legs—
the very dregs
of that whole gruesome box
of sox.

So I pulled on the seal-decked sox
held out to me by Auntie Knox.
I craved the robot Roy had got,
but sox were not too bad, I thought,
and clicked my heels and did a dance
to try to give those sox a chance.
I turned three somersaults in all,
then slid my sox on down the hall.
I stuck my sox up in the air
to show old Roy I didn’t care.

But pretty soon I said, “You know
there’s something in this stocking’s toe.”
I pulled it off and felt inside—
something round and not too wide,
something empty in the middle.
I pulled in out to solve the riddle
and while I thought I’d find some “thing,”
I found instead a ruby ring

Well, then I dove into that box,
reaching into piles of sox,
shaking out sox thin and wide,
seeing what could be inside.
I found a ball, some blocks, some beads,
a Barbie doll, sunflower seeds,
a diary with keys and locks,
a puzzle and a music box.
I shook out sox both short and long.
I shook out sox all morning long.
I finally shook out so much stuff
that even I had had enough—
almost.

I was only six back then,
but now that I am nearly ten,
every year my Auntie Knox
sends Roy bowling balls or blocks
She sent my dad a cuckoo clock.
She even sent my mom a wok.
Twice.
Sometimes she sends me something nice—
a robot or a music box—
but if I’m lucky, my Aunt Knox
sends me SOX!!!!!

And to all a good night!!

Six Gifts for My Sister

The Prompt: The Language of Things—You have to write a message to someone dear to you, telling that person how much he/she means to you. However — instead of words, you can only use 5-10 objects to convey your emotions.  Which objects do you choose, and what do they mean?

First of all, I have to say that this is my all-time-favorite prompt, so kudos to its creator. It is original, thought-provoking and fun.

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Six Gifts for my Sister

 Older sisters are our teachers, our critics, our cruelest enemies and our best friends. When we were younger, my sister was no exception. With age, however, some of these roles have fallen away. The others I often take for granted even though I know they are still there.

This year I will be, as I have been for most years in my life, far away from my four-year-older sister, Patti, for Christmas. Betty, my 11-year-older sister, unfortunately started to leave us four years ago and now lives in a world we are not a part of. Both Patti and I fear the same thing happening to us and we’ve made some Thelma and Louise pacts to that end. Hopefully, we’ll never have to use them and will fade peacefully away in our dreams when we are well over 100.

If this sounds excessive, you are right. I am a glutton for life and probably part of the reason is the capacity for play taught to me by my sister, who was always my most imaginative playmate. Even when I’m sad, I love living and want for life to go on for as long as possible, so long as I remain relatively pain-free and retain my mind, my sense of humor and my girlish good figure. One of these things does not belong. You can probably guess which one.

Since I live in Mexico and my sister will be in her home near Phoenix this year, we have sent gifts early. Mine sits on top of the armoire in my beach rental in its blue wrapping bag with curly ribbon. I have added a pelican feather and gaudy ribbon streamers. Since I’ve chosen to spend this Christmas far from friends and other relatives, it is my only gift and I am hoarding its mystery until the last possible minute. Perhaps I’ll open it at 11:55 P.M. on December 25! I’m sure my sister has not opened hers, either.

A usual tradition in our family was to do Christmas stockings to which we all contributed. (Well, except for my dad, who instead donated the cash we all used to purchase our stocking stuffers.) With that in mind and feeling sentimental, I’d like to assemble an imaginary Christmas stocking for my sister to open right now—as soon as she sees this. It’s a not such a large stocking, but as in all things imaginary, anything is possible; so I’m sure all the gifts will fit.

I need to start at the top, with the lightest most crushable items, and so the first gift she will find sticking out of the top of the stocking will be something flat, rolled into a cylinder before wrapping. When she rips off the paper in her usual unceremonial fashion, she will know exactly why I have given it to her.

It is a folder of Debra Paget paper dolls with snub-nosed scissors taped to the front to encourage her to actually cut them out. I have visions of them decorating her tree for the remainder of its life this year, or even better, my sister on her stomach on the living room rug, cutting them out while she listens to “Our Miss Brooks” or “The Shadow” on the radio, then assembles the material for a paper doll house: Kleenex box beds and sofas, tuna can tables covered in tissue tablecloths. Since she taught me these imaginary games, she’ll figure out the rest. Then I want her to imagine me there playing with her. She can be Debra Paget. I’ll be anyone she wants me to be, as was the norm way back then when we constructed our first paper worlds.

The next box she pulls from the stocking will be long, narrow and flattish. It will weigh practically nothing. There will be instructions on the front to open it more carefully than usual, for it is fragile. When she folds back the paper, she’ll find a box of the old aluminum tinsel—the extra long and extra skinny type that only she knew how to put on perfectly. It was an art, this distribution of tinsel on the tree. One had to be sure to spread it out evenly in bunches of only three or four strands. For maximum beauty, it had to be hung on the ends of branches so it hung just to the top of the next branch without lapping over. In our house, it was never thrown! I am absolutely sure that now, as then, Patti and I are the only ones with patience enough to do the job right, so she will have to do it for both of us.

I’m sure that what the next gift is will be obvious. It is a Christmas tradition started by my mother, who would tuck a small box of Russell Stover Chocolates in each stocking. At times, she would succumb to temptation and all of the boxes would be empty as she generously absorbed all of their calories herself. I am making one small change in tradition and tucking in a box of See’s Chocolates in lieu of Mother’s poor taste in chocolate. Helen Grace would be even better, if I knew where to buy them.

The next box is small and may have slid a bit further down in the stocking when the others were removed, so I’ve attached a streamer that extends well out of the top of the sock. Pull the streamer and the little box will pop out. Inside is a key. Looks like the key to a car. Actually, it is the key to a little tan Scout whose top can be taken off to make it a convertible. Here are the instructions I’ve written for Patti and wrapped around the key:

There is room for the driver (that’s you) and one more friend in front. (That’s me.) I am sitting there in honor of friends no longer able to: Patty Peck, Diane Looby, Mary Jo Kuckleberg. I think Karen Bossart is so slim that she could also squeeze in front with us. In the back, along the side benches and on the floor, if you really pack them in, there is room for at least eight others and I have written them all to be expecting your call. Billy Francis, Clarence Rea, Mick Penticoff and Bobby Brost are all must-rides. Since the male friends of your youth have outlasted most of your female friends, Billy and C.J. and Mick can bring their wives to sit in for Patty, Diane and Mary Jo. If my buddy Rita North were going to be in Arizona for Christmas (she isn’t) she could tag along as both of us always longed to do—and sometimes we were actually asked! Jim, I don’t think a Scout is your style, but be a sport and ride along in the back with the guys! You’ll discover formerly undiscovered levels of fun bumping along in this replica of Patti’s and my first wheels. And there is always room for one more in the back of a Scout!

The next gift is merely an envelope. Inside are two tickets to Africa. The accompanying note reads:

—To complete our journey that was once curtailed by a revolution and shooting that sent you off to bravely face the rest of the trip alone. It’s about time we tried it again, hopefully with happier endings. Since then, you’ve been back so many times that you can probably pick the agenda better than I could, so it’s an open ticket. You fill in the blanks.

So, we’ve finally come to the bottom of the stocking, but anyone who has plunged into the depths of a Christmas stocking knows there is always something left in the stocking’s toe. In this case it is a small but substantial box wrapped in rich gold paper with a shiny silver cord. Inside is a slide with a large diamond set in gold. Although I know that gold and diamonds are no longer my sister’s “style,” this one is a wonderful modern design with an emerald-cut stone set in a flat gold setting. It is this gift that I’ve chosen to show her worth to me and for that, nothing but the best will do!

Merry Christmas to all. Especially to that sister who has been there for me every single time and who need never worry again about being mean to me in our youth. That, too, is what older sisters are meant to do. It gets us ready for the world, which will not always be paper dolls and U’ing main in a Scout chock full of friends.