One of our family’s adopted holiday mores that developed into a favorite over the years is the Christmas stocking—it is both occupational therapy and tradition.
The first thing we do after we get up is put together two holiday treat plates: regular and gluten free. After filling our cups with something hot or cold, we settle on the couch and indulge in a nibble. I take down the stockings that have been wondrously filed during the night for each of us. We take turns pulling one item from the stocking, guiding Katie to find hers. Each item is individually wrapped—even lip balm or pens—so that every gift is special. (The un-wrapping process also extends the time in front of the fireplace sipping coffee, savoring a treat, and snuggling.)
Even at twenty-eight years old, for Katie reaching into the stocking and pulling something out is still a skill to practice, it is therapeutic. We reward every effort with applause and praise and I think that that is more her motivation than whatever is inside. The Christmas stocking ritual is one that we treasure not because it is an iconic holiday activity, but because it is something that we can do together. This was not always the case.
When Katie was small the Christmas holiday season was a time I did not look forward to. In fact, I dreaded it. Besides the long school break that afforded little stimulation for Katie and caregiving help for me, illness came like clockwork. More than once we have been in the emergency room on Christmas Eve. Nights were sleepless, not listening for reindeer’s hooves on the rooftop or Santa sliding down the chimney. They were spent trying to quiet the crying and comfort the ailments. Add to that our isolation from social norms of other children’s activities and excitement and you had a recipe without sugar and spice.
Today our child is grown and living in a group home—a gift that did not come out of an over sized red stocking and is one for which we are grateful year round. Living in a group home has changed Katie: she has matured, maybe more so than she might have staying under mother’s microscope. She sleeps through the night, she is healthier, and most importantly, she is happy. I think that part of this is due to the fact that the group home pace is her pace. She is no longer trying—with my prompting—to keep up with “normal” children…young adults.
We have gone from barely “surviving the holidays” to enjoying them together. And while I am spiritual, though not
religious, this is a true Christmas miracle.
Happy Winter Solstice. Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukah.
(I gathered the stocking stuffers featured in the photo while touring around the Grand and North Fork Valley conducting interviews. These culinary and sensory treats have been wrapped and are on their way to loved ones. Below is a list of the businesses when I found them.)
Clarks Orchards, Colorado Cellars, Cross Orchards Historic Site, Fire Mountain Fruit, Lamborn Mountain Farmstead, Meadery of the Rockies, Sage Creations Organic Farm, Springs and Sprouts, Z’s Orchards (Richard—only the label, we ate all the beets.)