Sometimes parents forget what their children view as important and one Christmas evening in Woolwich what had been forgotten was a Christmas stocking. My cousin Hank had left his stocking behind and we were informed we both would do what had happened before and that Santa would make everything alright.
Our Grandfather had a sense of humor and apparently we were not the first grandchildren to be targeted by his wit and wisdom. The next morning we found two nylon stockings of the variety worn by ladies in the 1960s hanging from the fireplace mantle. They were filled with unusual shaped presents and between each gift was a roughly tied knot. We were “informed” that no scissors or knives would be allowed and we were free to open our stockings before breakfast as was our family custom.
As I recall, the top few items were easy and unspectacular. I remember an orange and a small tube of toothpaste amongst these items. It is at this point the knots became far more difficult to untie and I remember working furiously while my Grandfather reminded me to be careful so I might not break anything.
The stockings were so securely bound that breakfast came and went and we were still trying to finish our stockings so we could open the presents under the tree. What I remember the most however, aside from the anticipation, were two gifts inside that stocking. One was a beautifully carved reproduction of my grandparents house that my grandfather had hand carved from a single block of wood. The second was the most unusual gift I ever received: Inside a flat round plastic container were three 16 penny spikes tied together with a rubber band.
I suspect my Grandfather was trying to provide me some sort of guidance and perhaps a suggestion that I could make something of my life if I worked hard and wasn’t afraid to get my hands dirty. Last week I found these three spikes tucked away in an old box of family droppings and it reminded me of the true spirit of Christmas.
Long after the fancy presents have faded from view or been taken to a charity store, these three simple nails are a gift that would not be traded in for a newer model, have stood the test of time, and for a few moments have brought to my heart so many memories of my Grandfather and the goodness, fairness, and expectations he stood for. I hope those gifts he gave me, immortalized by those three spikes, are gifts I may be able to pass along to someone else so his spirit may continue to be remembered.