My mother excelled at Christmas stockings. She made our charming red, felt Christmas stockings, decorated to a fare-thee-well with our names sparkling down the leg. She had a knack for finding the right little thoughtful things and making them fit into the stocking in the most interesting way.
When I began to have children, she embellished the rather plain stockings I first hung for them.
Accordingly, I have spent many years putting pressure on myself to do the same thing. I wrapped all the tiny little presents in white tissue paper and tied the packages with ribbons color-coordinated to each stocking.
It's what mothers do to show their love, right?
It's what *my* mother did to show her love.
And because her words of love and affirmation were so few and far between, I relied on the Christmas stocking as proof that she really cared.
This also means I've put pressure on people in my adult life to make the stocking happen, as if that were the only way to show love. This year I told my children, "We're going to keep Christmas low-key. Let's just do little things that go in the stockings."
I managed to put the pressure on all of us to excel at the one thing that someone who has been gone since 1993, I kid you not, would have done so beautifully, a person who has been gone so long that the last time she filled a stocking for me or for my boys was 1992, a person who never, ever knew my daughter or filled a stocking for her.
In other words, no one else even knows what I mean. I'm creating an unmeetable expectation.
Today LP expressed concern that she hadn't gotten me enough presents. She is worried about my stocking not having enough.
Dear Baby Jesus, please make it stop. Please make me stop. In this family we express our actual feelings with words. All I really want for Christmas (besides that awesome, mind-blowing, life-altering trip to the Boston Pops) is to worship tonight and to have my three children at the dinner table together tomorrow.
Next year, I promise, I will set no gift-giving guidelines.
My stocking is already full, as full as my heart.