My first memory of my Christmas stocking was noticing a large round bulge in the bottom of it. The stocking was weighed down with this object. There were roundish hard things pressed around it making the stocking look lumpy and oddly shaped. I felt around these "gifts" then looked inside. There was a set a jacks with a new red ball ( Oh, how I loved to play jacks with my playmates) sitting on top and candy canes below it. Below this sat a handful of raw unshelled nuts and the biggest brightest sweet smelling orange I'd ever seen. Smelling it was a joy in itself. Well, my mother was a bit of a raconteur. I remember her setting me and brother down on the couch, while peeling an orange to tell us this story.
One year, her family was particularly poor over the holidays. They lived on a small ranch in the San Andreas mountains of California where my Grandfather was a Look-Out for the Forest Service. My grandfather had broken his arm falling off a horse and the medical bills had cost them a good month's worth of wages. She and her siblings didn't expect anything new, maybe a pair of socks or scarves under the tree, probably something homemade. My grandmother always hung stockings too, fillling them with little handmade mexican cookies or candy. This particular year, the family awoke on Christmas day with stockings filled with oranges. She and her siblings were ecstatic. For them, this abundance of oranges was a true gift. They had been living on mostly venison, vegetables, and bread during the winter. Fruit was a treat. My mother said to this day, her heart skips a beat when she tastes a fresh orange remembering that Christmas. My mother was not sure how my grandparents obtained the oranges. However, she knew it took some kind of real sacrifice to get them.
The giving of an orange in our Christmas stockings is now a tradition. I told my children this story, and now they tell their children. This simple gift reminds us all of the simple beauty of sacrifice and giving.