There are a number of traditions on my late father’s side of the family that center around the praise of silliness. One such tradition involves stockings. Well, not your ordinary hung-by-the-chimney-with-care sort, of course—more like giant bags filled with stuff all unpacked simultaneously by two dozen loud, ruckus relatives. The whole point of these stockings is to give each person a pile of things they can’t decide if they’d admit to receiving. We don’t get together to do gifts each year. We get together to do stockings.
When we have to claim things at the Canadian-American border, the stocking bags are often classified as “miscellaneous under ten dollars” … probably to keep the authorities from seeing the giant plastic pen the size of an arm, felt jester hats, or Hawaiian leis we have stuffed back there.
One aunt is a dentist, and each year, without fail, she gives each person a G.U.M. brand toothbrush (the kind with the rubber picky bit on the end) and floss. I think it’s funny that we always act surprised when these come out of the bags, but they’re a Christmas staple. I can’t imagine having Christmas without floss and a toothbrush.
While in Toronto last weekend, the relatives all came together for a jovial (and jovial always means rowdy) dinner together. At the end of the evening, they surprised my mother, sister, and I by giving us our stockings early. The family stocking event is happening on the 22nd, but they were kind enough (or cruel enough?) to give us ours two weeks early. So, as tradition goes, whatever is wearable in your bag must be worn. Don’t forget those felt jester hats and leis I mentioned. This year was actually less-wearable than usual. We didn’t get goofy glasses or kazoos to finish off the looks. All the same, I’m sure there are terribly embarrassing pictures of the three of us now tucked away in the family blackmail file.
It’s been a week since our stockings, and I’m fiddling with a handmade necklace of seashells—one of my stuffers—and delighting in the sounds it makes in my hands. But what do I do with this stuff? Some of the gifts are more practical than normal. I have tissues printed with the American dollar (because they had to rub the power of the Canadian dollar in our faces), a bookmark, chocolate, a few ornaments, gum, peppermint soap, and of course my dental supplies for the year. I suppose I could brush my teeth and floss… well, after I eat this giant bit of chocolate shaped like a ‘J’…