Footwear left to right: Bede, Brad, Lucia, Alkelda (as usual, Ulric has too much dignity for such an affair)
We have put out our shoes and boots by the fireplace and hope for good things from Saint Nicholas, whose Feast Day is December 6. When I was a child, Saint Nicholas came first on his Feast Day to put presents in my shoe, and then stood in for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve to put presents in my stocking. In the early years, I did receive lumps of coal from time to time, in addition to an orange and a present. Yes, I was a difficult child, but I was also whip-smart: my father was a coal-miner, and I figured he put the lump of coal in my shoe for a joke. Sometimes I received a switch in my stocking along with the presents. Again, I suspected my parents of sneaking it in.* It wasn't that I believed someone actually came down a chimney (or on horse, as the historical St. Nicholas would have traveled), but I had a sense of wonder and gratitude that someone was rooting for me. Most of my relatives assure me now that they doted upon me, and I believe them, but many of my memories involve making people cross without understanding what I had done to upset them. St. Nicholas was someone who believed in my goodness.
It was only many years later that I realized the person who was rooting for me the whole time was my Grandma Orpha. Of my three grandmothers, Grandma Orpha was the one who was actually strict with me. However, she was the one who scolded my mother for putting the switch in my stocking. Grandma was not materialistic, but she paid attention to my various worldly wishes. As a teenager, I wanted a black leather skirt. I envisioned something small and scandalous, but when I opened my Christmas package, I found a full-length, wide-sweeping leather skirt that I could actually wear to school. In that same era, I wanted a crystal necklace akin to the one my idol, Joan Jett, wore. It showed up in my stocking.
I don't like to accumulate possessions, but I do like presents. I like to give and I like to receive. There is something thrilling about quietly noting what someone desires or needs, and finding some way of granting those wishes. While it is nice to have a little money to spend upon gifts,especially for the raw materials one needs to create something lovely, it is not necessary. (Yes, Brad the Gorilla, I know you absolutely positively NEED a fancy new sportscar, but you will have to make do with a knitted hat.)
Happy St. Nicholas Day! Place your wishes in the comments section. For what do you long that money can't buy?
*My parents are actually quite loving and generous. I think the stress of having a wild and wooly child probably took its toll in various forms of comic relief such as the ones I mentioned. Can you tell that I'm slightly more sympathetic now that I have a child of my own?!