We had been married about five years when Marlene decided to make stockings for each member of our family. Back then there were three of us–Marlene, me, and Josh who had just been born. She found a pattern she liked and proceeded to go to work. When the first three stockings were finished, we hung them on the mantle in the parsonage in Downey, California. Years passed, other children came along, and she added stockings for Mark and Nick. We hung those stockings above the fireplace in Garland, Texas and later in Oak Park, Illinois. For a long time, there were five stockings–and only five.
Then Josh married Leah and Mark married Vanessa. Soon thereafter the grandchildren came along: Knox, Eli, Penny and Violet. Last year Nick and Sarah got married. That gave us a total of 12 stockings on the mantle.
This year God sent us two more grandchildren: Zoe (to Mark and Vanessa) and Hannah (to Nick and Sarah). That meant two more stockings. Each one requires at least 100 hours of stitching.
All year long I’ve watched her work on the stockings. But this time was very different because she did her work while dealing with four surgeries on her left eye. She has endured the operations and the recovery and the weeks of face-down time with grace and good humor. Counted cross-stitch isn’t easy with two good eyes. I’ve seen her do it with only one eye. The stockings traveled with us to Chicago, New York, and New Jersey. Whenever we had a free moment, Marlene would start stitching away. Sometimes she would stop and say, “Look how the angel is taking shape” or “See how the outlining makes the rabbit pop out.”
Marlene has worked tirelessly to finish the last two stockings because in two weeks all 14 of us will gather in Dallas for an early Christmas celebration.
This afternoon she attached the backing, added the loops at the top, and then hung the two new stockings on our mantle.
Thus the work is done, at least until more grandchildren arrive. It is a labor of love on a project that started 36 years ago. Now we are ready for Christmas to begin.