by Andrea Goyan

My great-great-grandmother knitted the Christmas stocking for her unborn child while sailing here from the old country. She miscarried during the voyage, gifting the ocean her tiny daughter, but she kept the finished stocking. “Baby” was embroidered in green yarn against the red and white striped background. Great-Great’s needlework was shoddy, but beauty wasn’t why family members squabbled over the stocking.

The sock was magic.

Every Christmas Eve, the stocking’s caretaker gave each family member a chance to place an object inside Baby’s knitted chamber. The rules were simple: 1) The item needed to fit easily with the sock; 2) Each person only received one turn per year.

Randomly, the stocking would either keep the offering, in which case the object would vanish, or the stocking would gift the giver a perfect replica. My Grandma, who’d been the caretaker my entire life, said this kept people from being too greedy. No one, except my mother, ever risked placing in anything of great value for fear of losing it.

Mom’s ring debacle happened when I was twelve, and Mom tried to duplicate the diamond engagement ring her newest husband had given her.

“No way the stocking will keep my love token,” she’d said.

Grandma frowned.

“Baby decides what a person needs.”

Two rings came out, and Mom waved them in Grandma’s face.

“I’m going to laugh all the way to the bank.”

“Interesting,” Grandma said. “I haven’t heard you laugh since your choice in men ruined you.”

Baby must’ve known Mom’s husband was a no-good liar. The ring was cubic zirconia, and Mom divorced him, saying he was as worthless as the ring.

One year, the stocking kept everything except the frog my brother Mitch stuck inside. Grandma said Baby felt Mitch’s grief since we’d just lost our dog, so she delivered him a much-needed friend.

That second frog, the one made of magic, lived for twenty-two years. I believe it could have gone on forever if Mitch’s son hadn’t run over it with his bicycle.

Despite the sock’s humble origins and the fact that no one had ever grown rich using it, every family member dreamed of being its caretaker. To claim what Mom called her “birthright,” she knew she’d need to be there when Grandma died. I’d moved in with Grandma the year before to care for her, so I was there too. Together, we sat vigil as Grandma neared her end.

“The stocking’s mine,” Mom said. “Even if I have to pry it from her cold, dead hands.”

Mom scrunched her face together so hard I couldn’t see her eyes or lips. And I realized I didn’t remember the last time I’d seen her smile.

Mom leaned over Grandma, their faces inches apart.

“Even in death, the old cow’s torturing me. You’ve had your turn, Mother. Now, it’s mine.”

Mom plunked onto a chair warmed by the afternoon sun and pulled deeply from her ever-present flask.

“Wake me if she goes,” she said, shutting her eyes.

Grandma sat up at Mom’s first snore, reached beneath her pillow, and handed me the stocking.

“Took her long enough,” she said, wheezing. 

I gingerly held the limp sock. I’d never seen it up close in daylight, never seen the blotches of dark, reddish-brown stains. It was  nasty. And no one ever washed the thing, worrying soap or water might strip away the magic. At least the putrid odor I’d been smelling wasn’t Grandma.

“It’s a little frayed,” she sputtered as a coughing fit silenced her.

I set the stocking on my lap and took her hand until she caught her breath.

“Don’t you dare give it to your mother, young lady. Baby says she’s too angry.”

I couldn’t argue with that.

Leaning in to kiss her cheek, I said, “I wish you’d fit in there.”

She smiled. “A drop of your blood is all that’s needed.”


“Your blood will bind you to the magic and the magic to you.”

“That explains the stains.”

“Hurry,” Grandma said. “Before she wakes.”

I nipped at one of my hangnails. As I touched my bloodied thumb to the yarn, I heard voices.

Grandma laughed. “Noisy relatives, excited to meet you. It’s a regular party in there.”

“I don’t understand.”

Grandma squeezed my hand. “It started with Baby’s blood. It was how your Great-Great saved her lost one’s spirit. When I’m gone,” she patted the sock. “I’ll be in there too.”

“A soulcatcher?”

“Sort of. At least the ones Baby chooses. Your caretaker rules are simple. Number one: Be there whenever one of ours goes. Two: Open the stocking wide. Three: Never judge Baby’s choices. And four: Only reveal the truth to the next caretaker.”

“An unborn child determines our destinies?”

Grandma frowned. “A soul is ageless. Now be sure to hide it before your mother wakes.”

“You know Mom’s going to pitch a fit.”

“You’ll learn not to care. Now open Baby’s mouth wide and pat her when I’m gone.”

I did as she bid.

Moments later, I felt the weight of Grandma’s soul as she left us and entered the sock. I patted the stocking, and Baby burped.

I shuddered and stashed the stocking in my purse.

Mom tore the place apart after she woke. She cursed and screamed, railed, and sobbed. I let her sit with her disappointment until the following Christmas. After a traditional family feast, I pulled out the stocking.

Mom flew into a rage.

“You? I should’ve been me!”

Mitch’s son stuffed a snake inside, which Baby kept. Mom finally stopped grousing after I gave her a hundred-dollar bill, and two came out.

Baby took Mom’s bitter soul when she died, which surprised me. But rule three said never to judge Baby’s choices. The stocking grew heavier, and I heard something I hadn’t in decades—Mom’s laughter.

“Thank you, Baby,” I said, burping her.

Andrea Goyan (she/her) wants people to know she actually knits but cannot convince even the most wayward of souls to haunt her creations, so she captures them on the page instead. You can find more of her words at or follow her on Twitter @AndreaGoyan.
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