As a stay-at-home mom of two preschoolers, I eagerly anticipated a morning out each week where women were free to connect, learn together, and relax while their children were lovingly cared for. It was a program at my church cleverly called LIFT (“Ladies in Fellowship Together”) and it probably saved my sanity in those early years of parenting. The program continues today in a little different format and name (MOPS – “Mothers of Preschoolers”), but still acknowledges the deep need for this kind of break for busy young parents.
The kids enjoyed going to LIFT, and they loved the volunteers who cared for them so well. Naturally, we young moms appreciated them too! Most weeks, the kids came home with a little craft they’d made. One year as Christmas neared, the volunteers helped the kids make tiny Christmas stockings from green felt with their names in gold glitter. Could anything be more beautiful?
By the time our third child, Reuben, came along, our family had invented a strange little game with those stockings. The game became a tradition. The kids hid their little stockings somewhere in the branches of the Christmas tree. Then, while they were asleep or otherwise occupied, their dad and I hunted for those stockings, tucked a mini candy cane into each one, and hid them in a different branch for the kids to find on Christmas morning. No one ever talked about it. Somehow it just evolved, and remaining silent was part of the fun.
|Photo by G. Loewen Photography|
There was only one problem. Reuben didn’t have one of those little stockings. He didn’t mind, because he was still too little to care. But his sister cared. Mindy took it upon herself to make her baby brother his own little stocking. She cut one of her own well-used, every-day socks down to size and glued gold garland around the top. Now Reuben could participate, too. It may have been the saddest looking little stocking ever, but it was made with love. I felt touched by Mindy’s compassion. Like most siblings, our kids fought and drove each other crazy through their years under our roof, and I guess that’s what makes this memory so precious.
The game grew increasingly challenging every year as the kids became more clever at hiding the stockings. Nobody even liked candy canes much anymore, but tradition is tradition and it continued through their teens.
One by one, the kids grew up and left. The little stockings eventually went with their owners to their new homes. But somehow, Reuben’s funny little misfit stocking is still at our house. And every time I see it, I smile. My heart is warmed by the memory of a silly family Christmas tradition and of the priceless love of a (mostly) devoted sister.