Our little tree stands decorated near the fireplace, where our two red-and-white Christmas stockings hang from the mantel.
We’ve always put little gifts in each other’s stocking: jewelry, toiletries, candy, gag gifts to show affection, but when I was a kid our stockings were sock-shape pantries, loaded with edibles. With so many children, my parents couldn’t buy us more than a gift or two each, so they packed our stockings full of candy, nuts and fruit to make up for the paucity of presents under the tree.
It was my mother who stuffed our stockings. My mom was like an assembly-line worker, alternating among stockings until they were full and the bags of goodies were emptied.
Dolly Parton would have called our December a hard-candy Christmas, for good reason. My favorites were the assorted hard candies with the images of Christmas whose dye ran all the way through the sweet. A Christmas tree, a snowman, a Santa, in brilliant hues of red and green, they lasted as long as the candy as it melted in our mouths.
Likewise we would find sticks of crumbly soft peppermint candy in our stockings, another delicacy I haven’t seen in years. (Perhaps for good reason. Those sticks were basically red and white swirls of sugar.)
My mother would put an orange in the toe of each stocking, along with an apple and maybe a tangerine, accompanied by a selection of mixed nuts in the shell: English walnuts, pecans, Brazil nuts, filberts.
This handful of candy, fruits and nuts might not sound exotic today, but it was then. Just as we received toys only at Christmas, not the year round, these treats were annual gifts.
Too large for our stockings were the boxes of chocolate-covered cherries and the communal bag of chocolate drops — Hershey’s kiss-shape mounds of white cream covered with chocolate. These we would squeeze flat with our fingertips and place between two saltine crackers for a sandwich that was both sweet and salty.
Other times we would place the chocolate drops into a pot of hot cocoa on the stovetop and let them melt, making a beverage that was richer — and sweeter — than usual. But it was Christmas, so nothing was considered out of bounds.
The sugar didn’t end around the tree. My mother would make a fruit salad called ambrosia for our Christmas morning breakfast, but that was accompanied by the cakes she had baked the night before: chocolate, coconut, pineapple and maybe carrot. These we wolfed down with mugs of cocoa or coffee before my mother would let us play with our toys.
You know, with all that sugar, perhaps we were lucky Christmas comes but once a year.
This will be my last column for a while as I take medical leave. Keep reading the paper and we will see each other again soon. Merry Christmas.
Reach Glynn Moore at (706) 823-3419