The Stocking Surprise


Second place: Mark Llewellyn, of New Castle, Pa.

Doreen’s eyes, glassy in this state of reverie, wandered from one hand to the other. Arthritis found refuge in the aging joints long ago, and her knobby knuckles were testament to a life rife with farm work and household chores.

Once the farm had been dutifully handed down to her grown sons, Doreen purchased a small cottage not far from the farmstead, and since then has been content with family gatherings, church socials and all sorts of needlework. At first, she proved clumsy with needle and thread—uneven stitching, messy piecing, crooked hems, and a wicker basket full of botched and half-finished projects. But with time and patience, her sewing technique improved until she was pleased with the results of her commitment.

Aside from her family, Doreen enjoys nothing more than needlepointing. The rhythm of the needle comforts her; the predictability of the upward and downward strokes through the canvas soothes anxieties and calms fears. The finished products, more often than not gifts for others, filled her with a sense of purpose.

A deeper dreamlike state enveloped Doreen as she thought of Christmases past. As her memory unveiled a roster of Yuletide traditions, including some things she hadn’t thought of in years, she absentmindedly rubbed her thumb against the tip of her right-hand index finger. She felt the familiar callous that had developed from years of urging needles through canvas.

Just as suddenly as it came on, the woolgathering ended, and she once again focused on the Christmas project in her lap. She mustn’t dawdle, she told herself, for her deadline drew near.

Doreen picked up the wooden frame that held the needlepoint canvas. Having finished the splendid wintery scene on the Christmas stocking, she tenaciously worked on the cuff. Doreen had stitched Christmas stockings for each of her grandchildren, and her first great grandchild was to be born near Christmas. This seemed a great gift and the continuation of a well-loved tradition, a perfect gift for a perfect child.

The child was to be a girl, and her name would be Jolene. Despite this knowledge, Doreen had an inkling, call it “grandmother’s intuition,” that something was amiss.

With the weight of the deadline looming, Doreen began working on the fourth letter of the child’s name, the “e.”

Several weeks later, on December 25, Doreen admired the sleeping baby that lay swaddled in her granddaughter’s arms. As the child was passed from one relative to the next, Doreen’s granddaughter opened the gift that had been brought for her.

As she pulled back the tissue paper, a beautifully wrought needlepoint stocking was lifted from the box. On the cuff, emblazoned in gold, was the name Joseph.

A look of bewilderment spread across the young woman’s face. “But, Grandma, how did you know I would have a boy?” Her wonderment continued, “How did you know I would name my son Joseph?”

Doreen smiled down upon her angel of a granddaughter, and simply said, “Some things grandmothers just know.”


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