The Stocking: That’s Christmas Cheap and Cheerful

Opening the stocking in front of the fireplace on Christmas morning is the platonic ideal of Cheap and Cheerful. The fireplace is optional, of course, and my mother never made a Martha-ish ideal of hanging stockings as decorations – in fact they were actual socks, wool – one sized for my father and recycled into his wardrobe after the holidays. As we got older, my booty was stuffed into a pair of black tights and my brother’s into a pair of his own wool socks: two stockings, why not?

I can remember the invariables of every stocking of my childhood. The wide top bit might hold a copy of “Seventeen” and Yardley Glimmrick eyeliner – they were the variables, changing with every year and every interest. For Ian, it might have been hockey cards and licorice, for my little sisters, skipping ropes and headbands. That was the changeable top layer.

Here’s the never-changing bottom layer, from the toe up: a quarter, wrapped in tissue paper. (A quarter was serious currency for a kid in the early sixties. ) A mandarin orange, which was a piece of Christmas exotica back in the day in Quebec. Then there was the awesome orange: the foil-wrapped Droste chocolate orange that fell into segments when you tapped it on a tabletop. As an enormous fan of “Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates” that Dutch chocolate orange put a silver stroke into my skating when we tried out our Christmas skates in subzero weather on Boxing Day.

Of course there was a big, I mean a foot-long, http://www.laurasecord.ca/ candy cane hanging over the lip of the Xmas Sox.

When my daughter was a girl the top-of-the-stocking might have included the new Beverley Cleary, a pair of earrings, or a Burt’s Bees lip gloss. The toe of the stocking was frozen in time: a quarter wrapped in tissue paper, a mandarin orange, a Droste orange, available from Walgreens or TJMaxx — the big old candy cane came from Fanny May.

A stocking may not be quite as cheap as it was when Honor was a nymph, let alone when I was a bookworm, but, adjusted for inflation it can be kept Cheap and Cheerful. Resist the sweet impulse to slip a blue Tiffany box under the copy of “Vanity Fair.”  The Christmas stocking top layer should be personal and, well, cheap.

If I still hung up a stocking, here’s what I wish Santa would grok. A cheap fun pencil sharpener. Two soft pencils. The ab fab Burt’s Bees Facial Cleansing Towelettes, worthy of its own blog post. Some fruit jellies in a tiny box.

But never forget the toe: don’t wrap up a dollar coin – a quarter is fine. Many firms make better chocolate than Droste, and you can send me a box for my birthday, but not on Christmas Day. And the fragrance, pressed against the Christmas morning nose, of the mandarin orange and the candy cane, is fifty cents worth of cheerful.

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4 Comments

Filed under Born in Chicago, Cheap and Cheerful Object of the Day, History, Holidays

4 responses to “The Stocking: That’s Christmas Cheap and Cheerful

  1. Peter

    Wool socks are as Canadian as Anne Murray. Merry Xmas to all you bookworms and nymphs!

  2. Wool socks are more Canadian than Anne, much as I love her, I mean, she can’t keep your feet warm! Merry Xmas to you, your beautiful lady and your fairy-tale kiddies

  3. Alex

    Here’s a sure sign that we (meaning you and I) are of a certain age. You wrote that as you got older, your “booty was stuffed into a pair of black tights.” I’ll bet anyone a 151-proof Christmas fruitcake that as you were writing that sentence, the alternate meaning never crossed your mind.

    My first experience with a Droste chocolate orange was one of the food-related highlights of my life.

    Oh, and here’s your pencil sharpener, from the greatest catalog in this universe and probably any other: http://tinyurl.com/7dym5q6

  4. Kouign Aman

    Always ours was
    something to eat
    something to read
    something to play with

    Because our parents grew up in Britain, we got an orange despite living in Orange County California. 🙂

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