BEANERY ONLINE LITERARY MAGAZINE
THE CHRISTMAS STOCKING LEGACY
Joe F. Stierheim
This is a story about my son’s wife, Yvonne, and her Christmas stockings.
So that you might understand her and the story a little better, I must tell you some things about Yvonne. She is of Klamath and Cheyenne Indian descent, although she doesn’t look it. Celtic genes undoubtedly contributed to her ancestry and her small stature, abundant red hair, smiling eyes and merry, loving nature make her resemble a leprechaun more than the classic idea of a stoic Native American woman.
Her father introduced her to the traditions of the Native Americans and for an extended period of her life she lived on an Algonquin reservation. Through the teachings of a “Grandmother” of the Algonquin tribe, she absorbed the more altruistic beliefs of the Grandmother’s people and, as a result, she has ideas and ideals of a spiritual nature that are not normal in our society. She considers herself and every other person to be part of one creation and she thinks they are to be respected and treated as such. That, she believes, is the will of the Creator.
The light of Yvonne’s life was her daughter, Nichole. Yvonne’s first marriage had ended in divorce, leaving her to raise Nichole as a single parent, subject to all the limitations and scarcities that situation implies. There was money available only for necessities and none for luxuries such as Nichole saw her friends enjoy.
Yvonne did not want Nichole, who was just entering her teens, to think of her life as being unfortunate and lacking. Yvonne‘s own faith gave her an optimistic nature and love of life and a belief that a person to a great extent creates his own happiness. That belief had provided her with a source of joy throughout her life and she felt her task was to pass on to her daughter this same outlook.
Nichole, Yvonne felt, should be taught that her life, far from being one of poverty, was one of riches because of all that the Creator had made available to her. Nichole should be made to see that there were many people who had less than she did and who were less fortunate in many other ways. But she should learn that such people were no less in the eyes of the Creator and should therefore be as deserving of her love and respect as any other person. She also should be taught, Yvonne felt, to not be content only with enjoying the benefits of life but to be aware that it is each person’s responsibility to pass the joy they receive on to others. In that way, the blessings that one receives from the Creator go out into the world and, as gifts, are returned to the Creator as they should be.
Yvonne searched for a means to teach Nichole these lessons—difficult ones, ones that many people never learn. She asked for guidance and a very simple answer came to her. She had been teaching Nichole to knit and she was inspired to use that as a basis for teaching the other needed lessons. She taught Nichole to knit simple Granny squares, each measuring about 4 x 4 inches. By folding a square over on itself and stitching it together, Yvonne showed Nichole how to make a likeness of a Christmas stocking. The addition of a small candy cane and a wire hanger created a colorful and unique tree decoration, a wonderful little Christmas gift.
Yvonne and Nichole made stocking after stocking. It was necessary to make many, Yvonne told Nichole, because there are many people in the world who deserve to get an unexpected surprise to brighten their Christmas. Nichole would find, Yvonne told her, that the smiles of the people receiving the gifts would bring happiness to her life as well.
When December came, Yvonne and Nichole set out to make presents of their Christmas stockings. They visited hospitals and shelters, where people would especially enjoy them. They distributed stockings to friends, to workers in shops and markets, to employees in post offices and other public buildings and to strangers in the street. They especially liked to give them to people they observed performing a kindness for others. Nichole, and Yvonne as well, found that the surprised smiles that the Christmas stockings evoked brightened their days and spilled over to the whole Christmas season and to their entire lives. Each year, Yvonne and Nichole repeated the making and distributing of the Christmas stockings and each year they found it gave them more and more pleasure.
The fun of distributing the Christmas stockings with her daughter lasted only a few years for Yvonne. Nichole died in an auto accident a few days after graduating from high school. The autumn after that, as the Christmas season approached, Yvonne decided to keep up the tradition that she and Nichole had started. She has kept up the practice for the nine years that have passed since Nichole’s death. Each year she makes and gives as presents several hundred stockings or more, one year making some five hundred.
Yvonne starts to knit the stockings sometime in September. She works on them off and on during October, November and into December. The work is not a chore for her, nor does she approach it with sadness or the solemn attitude of one who is placing flowers on a grave. Instead, she does it with pleasure and excitement. The making and giving of the Christmas stockings is, for her, its own reward, a celebration of what once was and still is.
That also is the will of the Creator.