Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Stockings Aren't the Same

The boys have had the same stockings since they were born. They're traditional fare, a dark red sock with a white fluffy top.  Char, with glue and glitter, had placed each name in gold or silver centered neatly on the bed of fluff.  As I glance at them today, hanging from an eggshell wall, they’re the same stockings. They haven't changed and I doubt they ever will as long as we continue to put them up.

No, it's not the stockings that have changed as much as what goes inside.  Even though they may act it at times, our kids are not really kids.  They're men and women in their own right and Disney jigsaw puzzles may not bring the Christmas smile that it used to.  Sighs, I miss the days of cheap parenthood.

It was easier when they were younger.  At the ages of two, three or four, expectations were low because truly they still didn't have a grasp of what was going on.  Small toys, candy, that box of LifeSavers that looked like a book and they were thrilled.  I could pop into the Dollar Tree and come out fifteen minutes later with more stuff than would actually fit in the stockings and they would giggle and laugh and they were satisfied.  They don’t know to ask for more, and I loved it.

Then the days hit where they compared notes with the other little narcs in school and you couldn't shop cheap and get a smile anymore.  They knew the difference between Pokemon and its knock off equivalent.  Oh, they'd still get crayons and coloring books; a small bottle of bubbles.  Those were standard stocking fare.  Now, however, it had to be Hot Wheels and Little People.

Still, even that was easier.

As teens, the gifts became more technical - CDs, DVDs, computerized gizmos, and no, not the cute fur ball from Gremlins.  That, I would have preferred.  At one time their tastes in music and movies were the same as mine.  It was easy to pick something up because I knew if I liked it, then they would and, of course, I got the added pleasure of enjoying it anytime I wanted because they lived under my roof.  Hey, they take my stuff all the time.  It’s fair.

Then, they each graduated and entered college and the stockings were both easier and more complicated.  Key chains with cute sayings would now work or something with a team logo.  Of course, they'd have to tell me what teams meant what sport because let's face it, it's all Checkers to me.  The complicated part was keeping track of who likes what.  Zac likes Spiderman while Heather prefers Batman.  Nathan likes to draw and Chris likes to take pictures.  Chad is a soccer fan and a Cowboys fan, which I discovered referred to a football team and not a man in chaps.  I leave it to the girls to keep all of this straight.  I just hand out the money and there's almost always a hand out for money.

I was waxing nostalgic the other day, which is almost as painful as waxing my chest hair, when I tried to recall some of the toys I had pulled out of my stockings growing up.  To be honest, I remember very few toys, some cars, maybe some marbles or those green Army men.  I know there were toys; I just don't remember them.  I do, however, recall the candy.  I also got that booklike assortment of LifeSavers along with a tube of Tootsie Rolls where the canister was also a bank.  There were Hershey Kisses and M & Ms and a ton of other sweet delights that dentist children probably never received.

And there was fruit.  I never paid attention to the orange and apple that I pulled from my stocking when I was little.  They were nestled down at the bottom, one on top of the other.  It wasn't until years later that I even found out why they were in there.  Money was tight.  My father worked construction in Florida back then, owning his own subcontractor business and sometimes he was the last to get paid.  He always made sure his men were taken care of before himself.  The years of fruit were when money was just not there and my mom would put the fruit in to fill the stocking so it didn't look empty.  Looking back I remember that those were the years that they didn't exchange gifts, putting all they had into Christmas for my sister and me.

That's what parents do.  We've done it for our boys, not exchanged gifts so they could have a better Christmas.  I don't think they noticed either.  When we're kids, it's all about us and that Christmas rush.  As adults, it's all about them and that same Christmas high that comes as stockings are dumped and paper ripped off of packages.  That's our gift.  Their smiles, their laughter, the satisfaction that we've given them a memory.  Not of a specific toy or game, but of a specific moment that when they're my age or older they'll recall with that nostalgic smile that creeps onto my face as I think back onto my childhood and Christmas stockings. The stockings aren't the same, but the smiles are.

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