In our house we celebrate St. Nick. I grew up with this tradition of hanging up a stocking by the fireplace before going to bed on December 5, and then waking up on December 6 to find my stocking stuffed with goodies. My sisters always got fun stuff like candy canes, popcorn balls and chocolates. My mom did her best in finding me things that I would enjoy that weren't candy related--holiday pencils with fun erasers, animal crackers and holiday lip balm are just a few of the things I remember receiving over the years.
In 2009 I knew that Oscar and Bella needed to have their own stockings to hang by the mantle for the holiday season, as Jon and I already had stockings for ourselves. I knew I didn't need to rush to get them before Christmas; Jon and I wanted to make sure that we agreed on the stockings that we were going to purchase. I was at Target one day and saw a large pink stocking and a large blue stocking. I knew in my heart that these were Oscar's and Bella's stockings. I showed them to Jon online, we looked at them in the store and we bought them. We then had to find someplace to have them embroidered. We ended up at the mall on the Sunday after Christmas, at a place that embroidered hats. We brought in the stockings, they gave us an estimate, we confirmed thread color, font and which name went on which stocking, and were told when we should come back. Jon and I wandered around the mall until we could go check on our stockings. As I walked up to the counter, I could see Oscar's blue stocking on the machine being embroidered. I looked at the thread being sewn into the white part of the stocking and then read the name being embroidered: Bella. I turned around and almost started sobbing right there. Thankfully, Jon spoke with the associate and explained that the names were on the wrong stockings. I don't remember how or when, but the associate learned that these stockings were for kids that we didn't get to bring home. He apologized greatly, and then we began to talk about solutions. He would try to remove the embroidery while we ran out to Target to see if we could buy new stockings to get embroidered. It was 5pm and the mall closed at 6pm, so the rush was on. I wasn't worried so much about not getting the stockings done THAT day, but I was very concerned that Target would be sold out of the stockings and we wouldn't be able to find replacements. It too much reminded me of having the joy, hopes and dreams of being pregnant and thinking we were going to bring kids home, only to be mistaken and leave empty-handed.
Fortunately for my emotions, Target DID have the stockings we needed. We grabbed them, bought them and headed back to the mall. When we got there, we could clearly see relief on the associate's face. While we were gone, he had tried to remove the embroidery with very little success. We were not able to bring our stockings home that day, but we were able to pick them up the next day and bring them home. They have been hanging on our mantle each Christmas since 2009...yes, we hung them up after Christmas and left them up until Jon told me I had to take them down.
In 2010, with Gus at home, I knew I wanted Gus' stocking ready to put up for Christmas, but I also knew I wanted a stocking for Tittle. Since we already knew that Tittle was sneaky, I wanted to get him a sneaky stocking, so we got him the tiniest stocking we could find, but it was red and white, just like his twin brother's big stocking. For Christmas 2010, Jon and I hung up all six of our stockings. Just like 2009, we did not feel like decorating beyond that.
In 2011, Gus was older (16 months), but we again only hung up the six stockings. Gus, still, paid no attention to the stockings. This year, however, was an entirely different situation. Gus is more aware. He was able to help us hang the stockings this year and ask who's stockings they all were. After a short period of time (less than one week), Gus could point at a stocking and tell you whose it was without being prompted. He just did it all on his own. It made my heart smile that he was bringing up his siblings via his own will, but I was in no way prepared for what happened when opened up our stockings for Saint Nick.
Because Gus is young enough, Jon and I knew that we could celebrate St. Nick whenever we felt like it, so we opened stockings before dinner on December 4. We asked Gus whose stocking he wanted to open first, and not surprisingly, he chose his. He opened his gifts and it was wonderful to see him celebrate this holiday for the first time. Then he chose that I opened up my stocking, and finally it was Jon's turn. After our three stockings were opened, Jon returned to the kitchen to continue making dinner. I can still see, so clearly, in my mind Gus turning away from me, going to the fireplace, pointing at Oscar's stocking and saying, "Open Oscar's!" In that moment, I was speechless, but I knew I had to say something. I knew it would be too abstract for Gus to say, "It's filled with love." And I certainly didn't want to say, "Nothing." All I came up with was, "Oscar's presents are in Heaven, but his stocking is down here." Did I say the right thing? Could I have said something different that would have connected with Gus better? I hope what I said was okay. I hope that Gus can tell we love his brothers and sisters as much as we love him. I hope that Gus continues to think that if he gets presents, so do his siblings. I hope someday I hear Gus say, "Oscar's, Bella's and Tittle's stockings aren't empty, they're filled with love just like mine is."