I did not even think of the three hooks set into the trim of the staircase in the living room until that December. Now, as I passed by them daily, or sat on the couch staring numbly at the Christmas lights on the tree, my eyes invariably turned to the three hooks. Three hooks. Three Christmas stockings. But now only two sons. Spence had died January of that year, 2002. I had endured all the painful reminders of his loss and yet this one seemed unbearable.
The stockings themselves were unique, something I was proud of creating. You see, I don’t sew. I dislike sewing so much I taught my sons how to sew so I didn’t have to mend their clothes and replace their buttons. But the stockings were different. Following my mother’s tradition, (and she was an excellent seamstress) each stocking was made of real red velvet and lined with green satin. But the best part was each stocking was decorated with something that pertained to the individual child. Spencer’s stocking, being the first child, was the most ornate. His dad was a fisherman at the time, so I made a boat with beaded sails and stars in the sky, then attached different symbols over time.. a rocking horse he loved, a guitar with glittery musical notes above it. Each boy’s stocking filled up over time as I introduced skateboards, basketballs, cowboy hats and drums using felt, beads and glitter. And each one was a labor of love, especially from someone who DOES NOT sew.
Three hooks, two children. I tried to ignore it. Then one day my youngest son Jake, who was ten at the time said, “Hey mom, where’s the stockings?” and Miles chimed in from another room, “Yeah mom, where are the stockings?” I acted surprised like it had just been an over sight even though they had always been hung weeks beforehand. I retrieved the two stockings and hung them, my heart weary with loss. I knew it was a small thing but the red velvet stocking with the fishing boat on it had to go too. One more thing that should have been there but…
That clear memory was exactly nine years ago. Miles has his own beautiful family now and my granddaughter, Brooklynn, proudly pointed out their Christmas stockings to me; four hung across their mantle. Jake’s stocking is around here somewhere. He’s a man now too so his stocking is more of a sentimental keepsake. And I kept Spencer’s stocking. One of those quirky things mothers who have lost children do.
When my mom had a second stroke a few years ago, my brother Bob and I went to her apartment to start packing her things up, knowing she would not return there. In her closet, up high on a shelf was a box. We opened it to discover my brother, Timmy’s things. Tim died in 1964 at the age of nine. There wasn’t much; a few small metal soldiers, Cub Scout patches, blue ribbons from a field day at school. And there, folded neatly among the little boy things was a red velvet Christmas stocking. I understood a secret part of my mother now that I never knew before. Things we can’t resolve we just pack away. It’s a private place only God can fit into with us.
After Brooklynn showed me the stockings she ran back over to the camera (thank God for Skype) and said “Guess what Ama? It’s Jesus’ birthday!” with such excitement I expected to see Jesus sitting at the table with her blowing out candles. Joy unspeakable! This is the tender mercies of such a very loving God. He saw the empty hook and a crushed heart and he saw ten years down the road and two granddaughters that would flood the same heart with joy. This Christmas season, I am in awe of His boundless love. “Oh tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy! Oh tidings of comfort and joy!”