Christmas at our house means gifts and secrets.
Shhhh! . . . . Tis the season for the Christmas presents to be hidden until secretly wrapped. Careful! The kids are checking the closet-- checking it twice-- just to see if Santa is, by chance, storing toys there.
Our time for exchanging gifts is on Christmas Eve night at the family gathering. It was decided years ago, when the family became to big to buy for each and every relative, to just exchange gifts with Great Grandmother. Everyone crowds into the living room, the gifts are passed-- those from Great Grandmother to all of us and ours to her. The gifts to Great Grandmother are placed in heaping piles around her chair. One by one each family opens their gift from Great Grandmother as she opens her gift from them. This "opening of the gifts" takes forever!
What a surprise and wonder to receive an unexpected gift from a sister-- since we all agreed not to exchange gifts with one another. When asked why she gifted me when she knew I did not have a gift for her, she reminded me of the time when she had been alone like I now was, and I continued giving Christmas gifts to her each year-- just because I wanted her to have a surprise and a bit of wonder.
The most wonderful surprise of all happened a few years ago when the family gave Great Grandmother what she had jokingly asked for.
The day before Christmas a few of us were gathered at my sister's home admiring the Christmas decorations and the huge Christmas stocking hung on my sister's fireplace. This extra large stocking was about 6 feet long and about three feet wide and was, my sister insisted, hers and hers alone and she did indeed expect Santa to fill it to the brim!
Great Grandmother then described the large three foot by two foot stocking she had hanging on the outside of her apartment door as a Christmas decoration and laughingly stated that she also expected to see this stocking filled to overflowing on Christmas Day.
Only a few hours before the Christmas Eve gift exchanging and not enough time or money to find, buy, and wrap enough gifts to fill that giant stocking of Great Grandmothers! I went through my house collecting small treasures I had bought though the years-- a beautiful candy dish, a treasured pair of earrings, a necklace that Great Grandmother had admired one day, plus anything else that I thought she might enjoy. Still it was not enough to fill more than the toe and foot of that large stocking.
Frantically I called my daughter, my sisters, and nieces asking for anything-- small, large, old, new, or even gag gifts, to help fill that stocking. I asked them to bring anything and everything to the Christmas Eve gathering that evening.
Late Christmas Eve night, after the hours of unwrapping presents, I headed home with bags and bags of loving gifts and treasures the family had gathered together. One sister's favorite warm, furry hat that Great Grandmother could wear on cold days at the cabin, another sister's lovely gloves to wear while driving, and still another sister's new towel set-- bought because it perfectly matched her color scheme. It perfectly matched Great Grandmother's color scheme also. Perfume, jewelry, treasured decorative ornaments, some home-baked cookies in a Christmas tin, and so much more.
"I heard the bells on Christmas Day-- " Sure did! I was still wrapping Christmas presents at midnight. A few hours of sleep later the alarm went off. Everyone knows that Great Grandmother is always up by 7:30 am. With wrapped gifts in the back seat and a warm cup of coffee on the dash-- off I dashed to Great Grandmother's house. As quietly as possible I filled that huge stocking and piled more gifts on the patio around the door. I rang the doorbell and ran for the bushes!
Boy, I did not know that Great Grandmother could move that fast! She opened the door and immediately spotted me peering at her through the bushes. "What are you doing down there?," she wanted to know. As I stood up she spotted the stocking and all the presents piled around the door. A look of wonder and surprise filled her eyes. With laughter she turned to me and said, "I don't know what surprises me most. The stocking or you in the bushes!"
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