Christmas Stocking 6/10/22

Memories with Richard Bleil

Today I picked up my photography textbook once again.  I’ve been practicing photography but hadn’t really looked at it in quite some time (on the order of weeks).  I opened it to the bookmarked page, but what struck me wasn’t what was on the page, but rather, the bookmark itself.

As it turns out, I had marked the page with a one-hundred-dollar bill.  I had completely forgotten that I had done this.  Now, of course, I had replaced the bookmark and moved the bill into my safe, but what a great surprise this was.  Even though I had done this, it was completely unexpected.

This is something that my parents taught me many years ago.  Every year, after Christmas, we would put a bill into the toe of our stocking just before putting them away for the year.  It was usually a one-dollar bill, but I had brazenly upped it to twenty dollars when we were still doing this.  In fact, I wonder if my last twenty is still in the stocking.  The idea was that, over the course of the year, we will have forgotten that we hid the bill there, making for a nice little surprise the next time we decorated.  And no matter how many times we did it, it was still a surprise.

Working at the university in South Dakota, the bookstore hung tiny little Christmas stockings for all of the people working at the store, including student workers for the season.  One year, as a surprise to them, I hid a twenty-dollar bill in each of them without any of the employees knowing this.  It wasn’t much of a surprise, though.  When one of them found the secret bill, of course, the rest looked and found theirs as well.  The next time I was in the bookstore, one of the managers looked at me and asked if I had done it.  It’s sad when I can’t even be anonymous in my odd doings.

Unbeknownst to many of my readers, there’s something of an elephant in the, um, blog, I guess.  See, I know that right now, there are many friends of mine who are confused.  I never liked Scrooge, or the Grinch, because they were too into Christmas even at the beginning of the story.  Now they’re reading about my childhood Christmases, and my random acts of, well, Christmas cheer. 

No, I’m really not a fan of Christmas, but it’s really not Christmas itself.  Yes, the commercialism drives me crazy, and three months of Christmas commercials, Christmas sales, Christmas music and Christmas movies is all torturous to me, but it’s because I always have to spend the season alone.  The reality is that the holiday seasons are heartless and cruel to those of us who are alone. 

The years, few though they be, when I actually had somebody special in my life for the holidays, I truly enjoyed spoiling them to the best of my abilities.  If they had children, I would turn to spoiling them as well.  I really do see the magic of the holiday season, especially because I know what it’s like to share the holiday season with children.  It’s a very different affair than when I have to spend it alone.  So, yes, I am happy that my friends with family have somebody with whom to enjoy the season, but at the same time I hate being reminded constantly that I do not. 

It’s odd writing a blog about Christmas stockings in June, but the bill in the book reminded me of the story and, well, as usual, the post took on a life of its own and is just kind of sweeping me along with it.  But I would encourage my readers to look for opportunities to hide little surprises just for themselves and to take advantage of them when they arise.  Be careful.  A hundred-dollar-bill is a bit excessive because, well, if I completely forgot about it (as I had) and end up shelving or selling the book, then I’m out a hundred dollars.  Shopping in a department store back in the ‘80’s, I happened on a classic chemistry textbook in the furniture department.  I was shocked.  As it turns out, this department store would buy old books in bulk that the sellers believe would never sell and they used them as props for the furniture.  I asked a salesclerk if I could buy it but was told the manager would have to say.  The salesclerk put the book in a drawer in an end table for safe keeping and told me to return in two days.  Two days later, the salesclerk said that, yes, the manager would let me have it for a dollar, but when we looked for the end table, it had been sold and was gone.  I lost the book, and somebody gained a classic book that they likely didn’t truly appreciate.  So, yes, give yourself little surprises.  It’s a great way to take care of yourself, but don’t risk more than you’re willing to forget and lose.

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