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514 S. 6th St., #5

The Stocking

By Nancy Nason GussPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 7 min read
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My First Stocking today - from my first Christmas, which we celebrated at 514 S. 6th St.

My first Christmas was spent at 514, and I was almost a year old. On that first baby's first Christmas, a special stocking was made that bore my name and contained little baby things. As I grew, I continued using it, and it was always my favorite. None of my siblings had one like it. Their first stockings were purchased in New Jersey, not Georgia.

Me opening my stocking one Christmas

After this first Christmas, it saw me through my Christmases in New Jersey, and then it followed me back to 514, when my parents drove down from New Jersey to spend the holidays. It became my most memorable Christmas, but not for the typical reasons. Yes, I was with my family at the beloved 514, but it was also the Christmas when I almost died.

I had been suffering from terrible stomach aches, diagnosed as gas and given the instructions, "Lie down on your left side." I remember this not working very well. At the time, I attributed my pain to swallowing my chewing gum when told not to. Then the cramping increased in intensity and duration. I'd be fine, then my stomach would cramp with "gas" and gum (which was my secret), but overall I seemed okay when we left for Griffin.

After we were arrived, my stomach was killing me. It was Christmas Eve, and I sat with my knees tucked in close to my body because of the pain. A doctor was called. The regular doctor was not in, but they found another. In those days, they did house calls, and the doctor came to 514, and sat me up on the dining room table.

"What seems to be the matter?" he asked me.

"My tummy hurts," I said.

"Open your mouth and let's take a look. Say Ahhh."

I opened my mouth, "Ahhhh."

"She has a case of tonsilitis," the doctor proclaimed. Have her gargle with salt water." He left, and I gargled with salt water. I remember, even at this young age, that my throat didn't hurt; my stomach did. I knew it wasn't tonsilitis. I had swallowed my gum, and it was stuck, but I gargled away, still keeping the gum a secret.

On Christmas morning, I awoke to a house full of toys. Santa had been there, and the first place I went was my stocking. It rang the joyful bells of Christmas. I pulled it to the couch, where I crouched in a ball in its corner, hugged by its arms, and I pulled each little gift from it.

When done, I saw my new Ken doll and case and walked all bent over to the floor, where I sat with my legs trying to find a comfortable position as I tried opening each gift. My cousin helped me. I hurt and had a fever, but somehow, I got through the day and dinner. Family films would show a pale little girl trying so hard to enjoy, but obviously in a lot of pain. Mom always said that she couldn't bear watching the footage from that Christmas.

Early the next morning, I was whisked to the emergency room. My lips had turned bluish, I had a raging fever, and I was crying because my tummy hurt so. I couldn't move, and it hurt when the doctor prodded my lower abdomen.

In addition to poking and prodding, they ran labs, and the doctor came in with the diagnosis. "She has appendicitis, and we have to operate now." I remember screaming. He came over to the bed and tried calming me down, for he could see that I was very frightened. Unbeknownst to me, so were my parents. My white blood count was over 17,000, and they suspected my appendix was on my left side (which is why it threw everyone for a loop). "Your appendix is causing your tummy to hurt, so we are going to take it out." he said. "It will make your tummy aches go away."

"Do you promise?" I made him promise and calmed down. He was acting like he was giving me a choice, but he really wasn't.

"I promise that your tummy won't hurt from your appendix," he answered.

The area of the surgery hurt for a long time after that, and I had a prolonged infection. I remember telling him that my stomach still hurts. "It will heal," he said, "it just needs time and for you to be still and patient."

In the hospital, still in a bit of pain

I have his report. My appendix turned out to be over 12 cm (almost five inches) long, and part of it was on my lower left side. The word that stood out to me in the report was that there was gangrene in 3 cm of the tip that was on the left side. He removed the large appendix, my fever went down quickly, and I was alive, but I wasn't out of the woods. Evidently, the infection raged on and the fever returned, lasting a long time.

Initially after the surgery, 514 became my home for the next few weeks as I recovered. I remember that it took me a long time to walk without bending over. I sported a huge scar running all the way up the side of my belly. I was not allowed to run, play, or pick anything up, and my parents eventually had to return home without me. I missed my family, my school, and my friends, but I was with people I dearly loved in a home that was always comfortable to me. I watched the birds at the feeder through the kitchen window. Mamoo and Grams read to me every night. I got to sleep in the big bed in the same room with my great grandmother, who would pass away less than a year later, and they spoiled me. I had precious time with them.

When it was time to return to New Jersey around just before my sixth birthday, I packed up my Christmas presents, along with my special stocking. It would be the last time I used it.

Before the next Christmas, I had a new baby brother, and my parents bought us all matching stockings. They were almost as big as I was and definitely bigger than the baby. They had little boxes of wrapped presents glued on them surrounded by stitched on candy canes and other Christmas designs. They also held a lot of stuff.

Every year, when we unloaded Christmas boxes, my first stocking would be taken out with the current ones. It was still in magnificent condition, even if a little discolored, with its little bells that jingled whenever the box was moved. We admired it, “Oh, it is so cute,” and then returned it to the box without being a true part of Christmas…until…

My brother, then a teen, needed something to wrap the book he was giving my grandmother for Christmas. He grabbed my little stocking, and the tradition began. Grams opened her gift, and there was my first stocking, which was hiding her present. She opened the box, rejoiced in “surprise” and then expressed extreme gratitude, “It’s Nancy’s stocking,” she said with a smile. Then she'd find the actual gift, and Mom returned the stocking to the Christmas box.

Peter would build up to it each year with, “Grams, we can’t find the stocking. I'm so sorry.” She’d understand, act disappointed, and then open the box on Christmas morning proclaiming in absolute joy, “Nancy’s stocking! I love it!” This little charade lasted through her final Christmas.

Gram's final Christmas, which we celebrated in Griffin

Every year since she passed, I pull out the stocking, missing my grandmother and chuckling at my brother’s antics. Then I return it to the box... The stocking I hung was the matching one...Until this year.

This is the first Christmas with out my sister. It's impossible for me to hang the one that matched the rest, when hers would never be hung again. Instead, this year, I kept the matching one in the box and decorated with my first one. I have just the idea for it, and it shall play a part in Christmas again this year.

Here are a few thoughts for you, dear reader: •What old pieces of Christmas traditions and memories remain in Christmas boxes? •Are there any that might come out for a new tradition or memory? •What about a stocking from long ago? They make great packaging for small and important gifts.

@livingwithgussto #livingwithgussto #griffinga #oldstockings

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About the Creator

Nancy Nason Guss

Nancy Nason Guss, a retired career educator, is Living with Gussto, a life filled with Books, Bagpipes, & Blogs. In addition to playing bagpipes, she's published pieces for all ages that process life's triumphs and tribulations.

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