Our Stockings are Hung by the Chimney…

Our magic elf has done yeoman service so far this month. The outdoor tree was lighted while we were all out of the house; a tabletop Noble Fir, just for my daughter, appeared one morning after I left for work. He did all these things despite being…conspicuously absent. Speculations were aired. Doubts were raised. Stil no elf.

There needs to be structural integrity to hold all the York Peppermint Patties and Satsumas that go in there.  NO GRAMMA CANDY

There needs to be structural integrity to hold all the York Peppermint Patties and Satsumas that go in there. NO GRAMMA CANDY

After hopping from picture frame to window sill, from light fixture to art niche, the elf made his way onto the tree Christmas Eve a year ago, waiting to hitch a ride back to headquarters. I can neither confirm nor deny that Schizzle the Elf may have been a victim of friendly fire. Friendly wine-fueled Christmas Eve very-late-night-gift-setting-up fire. There is no need to point fingers! Mistakes were made, magical creatures got hurt (or misplaced). We all have regrets, and I very much regret how anyone else may feel about this. And remember, this was MY magic elf as a boy, and my mother’s before me. I still have hope to find him napping in a toolbox or some other such out of the way place where prying eyes are not likely to look.

Fortunately, the North Pole sent reinforcements via eBay and Etsy. That’s right: reinforcementS. Where once was one elf, now there are several. They move and hide and change places. Speculation and doubt have been replaced with curiosity and excitement, and though Daddy may have inadvertently and prematurely killed the magic (my daughter no longer whispers to the elf), at least Daddy restored the will to WANT to believe. So setting the holiday stage was complete…except for what to do about the Christmas stockings.

At our previous home there was neither mantel nor molding. We had a 50’s era stacked sandstone fireplace; I used a tiny drill bit to make barely perceptible holes into which I slipped long, thin brads to hold our stockings. They were hung by the chimney…WITH NAILS! Here, into a blank space in the architect’s drawings I designed a slightly ‘proud’ wall with an inset fireplace, a steel surround of my own design, and a pair of assymetrical niches to display a couple pieces of Blenko and a Tlingit-style eagle bowl my father carved. No mantel, no moldings, no chimney…no nails or hooks, either. This is hardly a design disaster on the lines of, say, “Look At My New Landscape and Planting (That Made it so I Can’t Wheel My Lawnmower Into the Yard and So I Will Have to Pick It Up and Carry It Up A Whole Bunch Of Steps For the Next Nine Years).” That sucked. But still, Christmas stockings on the floor are No Fun…especially when there is candy in the stockings and your floors are heated.

Our Christmas decorating can best be described as Festively Understated. Partly because I hate storing stuff that isn’t “used,” and partly because my wife and I both find ‘sparse’ to be a desirable design principle, we just don’t put a LOT of stuff out. But we have things that our grandmothers made, and things we both loved as children, a few things we have acquired together; my mother-in-law made our Christmas stockings for our daughter’s first Christmas. They need a place of pride.

Each year I gather a few distinctive pieces of driftwood from the beach at my Dad’s place on Orcas Island. These go into my

If you look closely you can see how I...Psych! YOU CAN'T SEE IT AT ALL!

If you look closely you can see how I…Psych! YOU CAN’T SEE IT AT ALL!

Someday Box, as in: Someday I Will Have Time and Will Do Something With This Stuff. I found a piece last summer that was perfect–that unmistakeable driftwood color, and where the branches had broken off, the branch collars dark and distorted. I set some small screw eyes at the rear inside corners of the art niches, where they cannot be seen. Then I laid the driftwood on a flat work surface to determine where the contact points were. To these I applied small squares of adhesive-backed felt furniture pad; and set another pair of screw eyes into the top plane of the driftwood. Using forty-pound test fishing line (line of this heft isn’t much good for fishing around here except for halibut and lingcod, but heavy 40- or 50 pound monofilament has a place in your toolbox next to the duct tape and the Mastercard, trust me) I tied a length of line each to a pair of small S-hooks (using the angler’s barrel knot, but a nonslip loop would have done, too). I put the hooks through the screw eyes in the niche, measured out how I wanted the whole affair to hang, and tied the other ends to the screw eyes in the driftwood. The result is an easily removeable, sculptural branch that seems to float on the wall, and is padded so it can’t mar the paint. Then, on the bottom plane of the branch, I attached one vinyl coated cuphook for each of our stockings. Lastly, I put two very small squares of the furniture pad at the edge of the niches to keep the line from cutting into the drywall. This whole operation took me way longer to type with my musclebound sausage fingers than it did to actually do, and the result? Just look! Martha Stewart my eye, says I! Now our stockings are hung by the chimney…with driftwood. That, and my MIL won’t ask me anymore why they are lying on the floor. Christmas is SAVED!

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4 Responses to Our Stockings are Hung by the Chimney…

  1. Deirdre says:

    An elegant solution. Given the care you took on the project, I think it’s still fair to say the stockings were hung by the chimney with care. I want to hear more about these elves.

    My parents’ house was built in 1961. It had a wilkerson stone fireplace. No mantle, but there was a hearth. Mom laid the stockings on the hearth. My current house is a 1916 craftsman bungalow. There is a mantle, but no stockings. I have mine from childhood. I should make one for my husband. Hmmm…..what should it look like?

    • calvincaley says:

      Indeed, with care…and hooks. If you follow the first link in the post, it will give you a more complete story on the elves. They were my favorite part of Christmas, as a kid…still are, I think. If you have your childhood stocking, you should try to recreate it for the hubs, especially if you have the skills. Besides the ones my MIL made for us, I have our childhood stockings also, they were from Frederick and Nelson (if you are a lifelong Seattlite), and I kind of dream of taking the names off–my Mom,my Grandma, those family members who are not with us or NOT WITH US, and replace them with ours. A couple of them go back to my mother’s grandparents, and they are all so old and so perfectly Christmas-y. But we have what we have and it was made for us with love…a Category II gift, to be sure.

      • Deirdre says:

        I don’t remember where my childhood stocking came from, probably Sears in Buffalo. I remember Frederick and Nelson’s. I worked a Christmas season there back in the seventies. I embroidered fancy stockings for my boys when they were little. I designed a needlepoint stocking for my husband. I started it this evening. It’s going to take some doing to have it ready in time.

      • calvincaley says:

        Frederick and Nelson’s in the ’70’s…wow. Frango milkshakes in the Paul Bunyan Room, ashtrays in the dressing rooms–even in the children’s departments! and high-powered rifles in the taxidermy-filled sporting goods department (remember the ‘giant snowy owl?’ it was the hind end of a deer with fake beak and eyes) We have Santa photos from the corner window from 1966 to 1990. I hope you have finished your husband’s stocking, and that they will be filled with joy, cheer, and abundance. MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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