I’d post a random pic here but all the images I found when I googled ‘brown stockings’ are super sexy and fetishy and inappropriate for this blog and this post. I’m not talking about that kind of old brown stocking.
I don’t have the actual ones anymore. They probably didn’t make the trip from California to New York. But I’m pretty sure I did have them for a while as a young adult because I remember wearing them with a punk plaid skirt, even though I didn’t have a garter belt and they kept falling down. They were quite ugly in fact, in that cool-ugly way that goes so well with punk rock. They had ribs and were semi-opaque and reached mid-thigh. I can never find knee socks or thigh stockings that reach anywhere near my thighs or my knees. My legs are daddy long legs long. So these were special for that reason if not for any other.
But there was another.
Before they became a major fashion accoutrement they were my mother’s much-loathed English boarding school stockings. I can only imagine how uncomfortable and itchy they were to wear with one of those old-fashioned garter belts which pinched around the middle and chafed your legs with the metal and rubber snaps, and it must have felt quite breezy though at least their skirts were longer than the ones I wore.
And after that they were our family Christmas stockings.
I remember how they looked, like shriveled brown snakes draped on the end of our beds the night before Christmas. But in the wee hours my parents would take them and fill them and bring them back, stuffed full, and tied with a knot at the top. And I remember the weight of them across my legs, and waking early, say three or four o’clock in the a.m., and whispering over them with my sister. The semi-opacity of the material made everything stuffed inside look mysterious and magical. You could just see the shiny foil wrapping papers peeking through, feel odd shapes, and hear packages crinkle and whisper fantastic suggestions of their contents to us.
They could have been filled with anything. Anything. Thinking back on them I am reminded of the picture in The Little Prince book of the anaconda which had swallowed an elephant. That is what the filled stockings looked like. Bloated with things that could easily have been as wonderful and unexpected as a real-life elephant. The possibilities were endless!
The rule was we had to wait until around 8 a.m. before going into my parents’ room and opening our stockings on their bed. They had stockings too (though not as wonderful as ours) and we went by age; youngest first. So that meant my sister always got to go first. (No, I don’t grudge much).
Of course, we couldn’t wait until 8 a.m. especially not when my sister and I drove each other into a frenzy of excitement. “I have a silvery knobbly shaped thing about halfway down,” I’d tell her, and she’d say “I have one of those too! What could it be?” and we’d speculate “A hedgehog? A silver hairbrush? A pair of magic ballet slippers that will transform us into prima ballerinas?”
So we became adept at unpacking our stockings, unwrapping the presents (sadly there was never a silver hedgehog or a mynah bird in mine), exclaiming over them without waking the parents, and then wrapping and packing everything up again and restuffing the stockings in reverse order. Then at precisely 1 minute to 8 we would run down the hallway with the stockings bump bump bumping against the back of our legs and throw ourselves onto the big double bed.
Right down in the bottom in the toe we always found hazelnuts and walnuts which we would crack with our teeth, and chocolate coins and balls in colored foil wrappings, and most often an orange. And hey, I grew up in Ontario where we have big grocery stores and all and it’s not like Christmas was the only time I ever got an orange but for some reason a stocking orange was the best orange of all oranges. And don’t even get me started on the wonderful years when we got an orange AND a Terry’s chocolate orange sent by one of our fabulous aunts in England.
When my son was born I dreamed of these gigantic woollen stockings made from all the scraps of leftover wool I had amassed through the years. So I made them.
I made him a green one, and myself a purple one, and five years later,a pink and burgundy one for my daughter and there are threads of metallics and spangles woven into them, and they are carefully engineered to fit a 2 lb box of See’s nuts and chews and a dvd box set in each one. PLUS a whole bunch of other things.
They lack the gorgeous flimsiness of my mother’s old brown stockings- you cannot drape them anywhere on the end of your bed because they do not drape. They are solid and have heft even when empty, but stuffed full of unidentifiable objects, they are almost as magical and exciting as the originals.