In the Beginning

The Christmas Stocking

part of: Short Fiction

by Bertha Wise

When I was just a girl, the snow always came up to my waist by Christmastime. I looked forward to the Christmas festivities, probably because of being a kid but also because my mother always tried to make it an especially happy, joyous time of sharing and giving. She started every year, very early, and made knitted socks, sweaters, mittens and hats or crocheted doilies and scarves, each item with a special person in mind. I usually got red mittens. My dad and brother got gray knitted socks, big enough to go over other thick socks and heavy enough to keep their feet warm as they tended the cows and did other farm chores.

One particular Christmas, when I was about six or seven, it was going to be a lean year. We never bought a Christmas tree then, since we had our own woods where my brother would cut down a tree he’d chosen before the snow fell. That year, we had had so much snow that he couldn’t get the one he wanted, so he found two good sized evergreen branches that he cut and wired together to “make” a tree. Once we got all the decorations, lights and icicles on it, no one knew otherwise. It was the most beautiful tree, to me. My mother didn’t drive, so she had to rely on my father to take her into town to shop. It was long before we had the internet and online shopping or door-to-door delivery in the country. She had not been able to do much shopping that year either, because of all the snow and bad roads. It just wasn’t safe to go out unless one absolutely had to. So, it was a good thing that she had her knitting and other ways of producing gifts for all.

Still, Santa had to make it to our house to fill my Christmas stocking—one of my dad’s old knitted socks that was stretched out and would soon be replaced by a newly knitted pair. On Christmas Eve night, I hung my stocking near the door—we didn’t have a fireplace or other special place so it just hung on a nail. I went to bed early, since my dad said that Santa couldn’t come until I was asleep. I’m sure I dreamed of sugar plums and reindeer and a tiny sleigh—my dad read “Twas the Night Before Christmas” to me—but I don’t remember. I just know that at some point, I awoke to the rustling of paper. I thought, “It must be Santa!”

I eased out of bed and quietly crept from my bedroom, across the hallway to the living room, where my dad always stayed up late to read. As I peaked around the corner, I found him still there—still reading! How on earth was Santa ever going to enter our house, if my dad was still up! I went in and reminded him that he needed to go to bed too. At that, he said that Santa had already come. I saw the presents that had magically appeared under the Christmas tree. I knew I couldn’t open them since it wasn’t Christmas morning yet, but oh, how I wanted to see what was in my stocking. I spied it still hanging on its nail. It was no longer flat and limp, but now plump and full-looking. What on earth could it be holding?

My dad saw me looking toward the stocking. I must have had that “please” look in my eye, as he said, “I suppose it’s okay for you to look in your stocking.” His eyes twinkled a bit and a grin moved across his face. I hopped up on the couch in order to reach the stocking, took it down—it was crunchy to my touch because of the stuffing it contained. It was also heavy—a big round object was definitely in the toe! What on earth could it be? I’m not sure what I expected—probably some little trinkets of some sort—but I started pulling crumpled up newspaper out of the stocking. I kept pulling out more and more of it. I thought it was never going to end. There was nothing there—just paper! Well, I thought, “What was Santa thinking? Did he run out of things for stockings when he got to our house?” Finally, I pulled the last of the crumpled newspaper out and felt the heavy round object in the toe. It was a huge orange—a “navel” orange!

My dad read my face—the look of disappointment that there were no little toys or other things in the stocking. He said to me, though, that Santa must have known that I wanted a big navel orange even if I didn’t know that. He asked me to give him the orange, as he pulled out his pocket knife. I handed him the orange and he carefully cut the peel enough so that it could be pulled away from the fruit. Then he separated the sections, handing them to me one at a time. “Try that!” he said. I did. It was the juiciest, sweetest orange I had ever eaten. Santa knew exactly what I needed that year!