When I was a young girl, we heated our house with coal. A chute brought it through a basement window to a big pile in a corner of the cellar. A piece of coal was handy for drawing on sidewalks or making the lines for hopscotch. Being readily available and familiar, coal was often used to encourage children to be good—no one wanted to get coal in his or her stocking because that would mean he or she hadn’t been good, and Santa was always watching.
Every Christmas this story was always told in my family. One Christmas Eve my sisters, Alice and Gert, who shared a bed, hung up their Christmas stockings as usual. Alice woke first in the morning and found coal in her stocking. She quickly switched it with Gert’s who had Christmas treats—an orange and hard candy. When Gert awoke, she ran crying to my mother who had to straighten things out.
When I came along, I would hang my stocking, too, usually a knee sock because they were longer and could hold more. Thankfully, I never received any coal! There was an orange, a candy cane, and a package or two of trading cards with beautiful pictures of dogs, kitties, horses, bunnies, landscapes, flowers, etc. The cards could be traded with friends for other equally beautiful pictures. I loved opening my stocking because it was the only gift I could open before church.
I remember, too, that my cat Blackie got a stocking and hers had a catnip mouse that she enjoyed rolling around with on the floor.
Sometimes I long for those simple days when little things seemed to mean so much more.
As you hang your stocking this year, I wish you little treasures and happy memories to enrich your life. Merry Christmas!
—Bernadette R. Gentry