The Holiday season is supposed to be about love and caring and sharing. Huh, try explaining that to an anxiety ridden and disillusioned 6 year old girl. I grew up poor but honest, as most of the people on the planet. We didn’t have a cozy fireplace with a plate of chocolate chip cookies on the hearth for Santa. But the chimney for our house went from the basement furnace up through the roof alongside a corner in my tiny bedroom. I don’t know what other kids did with their Christmas stockings but my creative mother hung mine on the corner of the plaster covered chimney.
I was too young to know that the purpose of the fireplace was so fatty Santa could squeeze himself down it to get into your house. And I was too dumb to know that there was no way Santa could blast through the chimney to get to my stocking without leaving a permanent crater in the plaster.
Young, dumb and innocent I curled up in my quilt covered bed on Christmas Eve. I gazed with trust at the red and green knitted stocking dangling from the wall. As I fought against sleep, I tried to remember last year. I was sure I had gotten important treasurers in that fancy sock. Of course, there had been walnuts, still in their shells; some hard Christmas candy that lasted a long time if you were patient enough to suck them; and in the toe of the stocking, a small round orange. I guess Santa thought I should have at least one healthy thing to eat as I tore through my presents.
I don’t remember my dreams that night. It was enough that I slept through until the first cold light peeked in my window. I was saved from worrying about what the morning would bring.
My sleep fuddled brain finally got through to me. It’s Christmas!! My eyes popped open to discover my reward for trying so hard to be a good little girl.
AGGH! The stocking was gone. I closed my eyes and shook my head, my sleep-flattened curls flouncing. I squeezed opened one eye lid and looked all around the chimney corner, the floor, even under the chair where my clothes were jumbled. The stocking was gone. Not only had Santa stiffed me on a gift, but he had stolen my hand knit stocking. So much for being nice to my rotten cousins.
Worried and confused I burrowed back under the covers and waited, and waited, and waited.
Eventually my mother came in. “Honey, why aren’t you up? Don’t you want to see what Santa left you?”
I had always worried about my mother’s brain power but now I wondered if she had vision problems too. She didn’t even glance over to where the stocking should be. She just reached down and picked me up. I grunted.
‘”Grandma and Grandpa are waiting for you. Daddy’s got the camera all ready.”She carried me into the living room where the skinny tree was already dropping needles. My grandparents and Dad kidded me about being a ‘sleepyhead’ on the most important morning of the year. I faked a smile and looked at the gimpy tree.
Whoa, what’s this? My red and green stocking was under the tree and something very bulky was sticking out of it.
Mom set me on the floor. As I scampered over to check out the sock, my Mom was saying something about the toy being too heavy to hang on the wall, so Santa had put it under the tree.I pulled out the unwrapped doll. Wow, A genuine, authentic, General MacArthur doll. The hero of the Pacific during World War II, he was dressed in his official Army uniform including hat and with his right arm cocked in a perpetual salute. It was a terrible war and inflicted horrendous losses on many people. But everyone including children, had hope and trust in our heroes.
Many years later with my own children grown and scattered across the country I still have a Christmas tree. My General MacArthur doll, a little torn and tattered, still has a place of honor under it.