Every Christmas Eve my sister Heather and I would hang our little stockings on the fireplace mantel and go to bed. Mom had made these stockings when I was about 7 years old and they were hung with great ceremony and excitement with the promise of great rewards to shortly appear. We were not "believers" (being wise beyond our years) and knew who the real Mr. & Mrs. Santa Claus were. Nevertheless, the excitement level was just as high or perhaps higher knowing who would fill our stockings to overflowing and actually change the stockings into something almost magical by morning.
Mom and Dad would be up until the wee hours of the morning making Christmas happen. The tree was never decorated until we went to bed on Christmas Eve and the turkey would be laying quite naked and cold in the sink awaiting its expected fate. As soon as we were in bed the house became alive with frantic activity to rival that of any North Pole community. If we should venture to the top of the stairs to have a peek, Dad would ring jingle bells and tell us to get back in bed because he could hear Santa coming. This delighted us, and although we didn't believe in Santa Claus, it did get us back in bed and we'd eventually drift off to sleep in the exhilaration of expectation that comes to children at bedtime on Christmas Eve.
Meanwhile downstairs at Christmas Central, the tree would be tied securely to the wall in corner of the living room and the arduous task of stringing the lights on the tree would begin. Dad would do this, testing each string of lights before they ever landed on the tree. Then he would decorate the tree with blown glass ornaments, garland and silver icicles hanging down ever so evenly on each bough.
Mom would be stuffing the turkey and doing a hundred jobs that had to be finished before Christmas morning. (Sometimes we'd come downstairs Christmas morning and find new flooring on the kitchen floor!) She and dad would then wrap our gifts and lay them under, about and flowing out from the tree. It was truly a wonderful sight for our eyes when we eventually made it downstairs to the tree next morning.
Before going upstairs themselves, Mom would put the turkey in the oven to slowly roast during the remaining hours of the night. By this time it was quite late, probably close to 2 am and the stockings were still to be filled. The little red stockings were left behind on the mantel still as empty and flat as they had been when hung and the "real" stockings were pulled out of Mom's dresser drawer and laid on the bed to be filled and stuffed as they had never been in their original capacity.
Mom's nylon stockings may have looked long and skinny but they could stretch the length of the bed and made the ideal Christmas Stockings for two little girls who were the delight of their parents.
The stockings were stuffed in an orderly manner and this order was adhered to year after year, a tradition handed down to the next generation. Just as the order was important so was the content of the stockings. This was no random collection thrown together. It was a planned and well executed mission.
The bags containing the stocking stuffers would come out of cupboards, from under beds and behind dressers and the bed would become Santa's workshop. Everything would be sorted out to make sure there was two of everything and then the stuffing would commence. Mom with one stocking and Dad with the other.
The very first thing to go in the stocking was money. It wouldn't be a ten dollar bill back then (that would buy a week's groceries) but usually a dollar bill or a few quarters or even a silver dollar may make it's appearance. The money would be wrapped quite bulkily in a piece of Christmas tissue paper and placed in the toe of the stocking. The heavy wrapping was so we wouldn't accidently throw out the money.
Next came a large Navel orange--the largest that could be found, a tangerine, a very large 5-point apple (Red Delicious), some hard or ribbon candy wrapped in paper, a few bars, and a grapefruit for the heel.
One thing that always made an appearance in our stocking was a package of figs. My sister didn't like them much as she said they reminded her of "rats ears"--not that she'd ever seen a rat in person! Mom said it wasn't Christmas without figs so whether we liked them or not we got figs. (I still buy figs at Christmas.)
A bottle each of orange crush and root beer would be stuffed in and always a bag of Hawkins Cheezies. The cheezies were hard so they could go in the middle because they wouldn't be crushed.
The middle of the stocking also contained other uncrushable items. There would be three kinds of gum--Juicy Fruit, Double Mint and Spearmint, chocolate Santas or ornaments, a Kit Kat bar, a Cherry Blossom, an Eatmore bar, Glossette raisins and peanuts, a can of salted peanuts, Thin Mints, Jujube Candies, Cracker Jack or Caramel Corn, Mixed Nuts still in the shell (Shelling those nuts kept us occupied for several hours over the course of the day. The almonds were so hard we'd have to take a hammer to them.) In between the food there would be socks, mittens, deodorant (when we were older), soap, toothpaste and toothbrush, tissues, nail clippers and slippers.
At the top of the stocking went the crushable and soft things like bags of chips, grapes, a pear and a banana. The stocking was now complete and ready to be topped off with a new Christmas tree ornament.
Mom and dad would finish the stockings, creep out to our room and lay those torpedo-sized stockings on the foot of our bed. (We always slept together on Christmas Eve.) Then they'd drop dead-tired into bed only to be awakened half an hour or so later by my voice announcing to the world that Christmas had arrived.
In the still dark morning my feet would hit the stocking laying over the end of my bed and I'd immediately wake Heather.
Mom would sleepily call out and say, "Don't eat the candy. Eat the fruit."
It was hard, but we obeyed and nibbled on the fruit as we explored our stockings, calling out occasionally (that was me) to ask permission to eat the cheezies or chips. When everyone finally woke up we went downstairs to see the gifts under the tree, have breakfast and eat our stockings.