“The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there…” Or so the story goes. And while this is probably true in most homes around the globe tonight, it was not the case in our house the last few years.
Whether born or married into our family, you are bestowed a beautifully hand knit Christmas stocking created by my mother-in-law. Each stitch knit with love, one of the main features of these festive stockings is your name emblazoned at the top, which, I imagine, is meant to be a friendly reminder for Santa on his big night. It was a tradition that dated back 50 years and was the envy of those outside the family, not only for their beauty, but more so for the strong bonds that the stockings represented.
Every year our family of four would hang these treasured stockings prominently on the mantle, reminiscing as we did about their special meaning and the wonderful woman who made them for us. It was a part of Christmas that we all cherished and looked forward to, that is, until a few years ago. When Sam began to transition he no longer wanted to hang the stocking with the name “Samantha” over the fireplace for all to see. This person no longer existed and only brought painful reminders of someone he never really was. While it broke our hearts not to hang his stocking, we understood, but were not sure what to do. My mother-in-law passed away several years ago, and so having her make a new one was not an option. Do we tuck all the stockings, along with the sentimental feelings attached to them away, opting for new store-bought ones so that Sam would not have yet another reminder that he was different?
This might not sound like a big deal, I mean these are just stockings we are talking about for God’s sake, right? Surely there are more important things to lament about than this. But when you are raising a transgender child, there are little things like this that present themselves every single day. And I do mean, Every. Single. Day. Things that would never be an issue for other children are monumental for Sam, this being one of them. And so we decided to let my husband and our daughter Josie keep using the special stockings knit by Grammy, while Sam and I began hanging a matching pair of store purchased ones. It seemed like the right compromise. But it didn’t feel like it.
Enter my dear friend Kelli. After two years of hanging our misfit stockings on the mantle I shared my sadness with her. And she, in her usual calm and comforting manner said, “I know someone who can help.” She went on to tell me about a woman who was known for her knitting and assured me that she would be able to fix Sam’s stocking. Now you have to understand, I don’t sew. If a button falls off of the kid’s clothes they don’t even think to bring it to me – my husband is the keeper of the sewing kit in our house. So the thought of someone ‘fixing’ Sam’s stocking never occurred to me. And even as she suggested it, the mental picture I had of changing the name on a knit stocking was not a pretty one. How on earth would this be done without it being noticeable, I thought to myself; but with nothing to lose I gave her the stocking and held my breath.
A few weeks went by when I got the call from Kelli. The stocking was done and she could not wait for me to see it. “I think it looks good but I want you to be the judge,” she said in her dry way. What was that suppose to mean, I wondered? Was that code for, “…it now looks like a patch-work quilt” I speculated.
When I met her to pick up the stocking I could see she was trying to conceal her excitement. She handed me a bag and stood back to watch my reaction. Words cannot even begin to describe the unbelievable job this woman did for a boy she didn’t even know. ‘Samantha,’ like the child, was gone and in its place was the name ‘Samuel,’ beautifully stitched with perfection. Using extreme care, she only removed the letters, ‘a-n-t-h-a’ replacing them with ‘u-e-l’ so as to keep as much of the original stitching as possible. Matching the yarn color for the name, while not disrupting the integrity of the rest of the stocking, she not only fixed the stocking, but also gave our family back a tradition we thought was lost forever. The kindness shown by this woman, who would not accept payment for her work, will never be forgotten. Each year as we hang our stockings on the hearth we will always think of her fondly and make sure our children understand that what she did for our family embodies the true spirit and magic of the season.
Wishing everyone the happiest of holidays and the best of new years!