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December 13, 2023

The Stocking Stuffer

Freida McFadden, the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of THE HOUSEMAID, is a practicing physician specializing in brain injury. Her new book, THE TEACHER, releases on February 6th. This mind-bending psychological thriller is a story of twisting secrets and long-awaited revenge. In her holiday blog post, Freida recalls the Christmas Eves she spent with her grandmother, who would place her presents in an actual stocking. Not surprisingly, Freida’s favorite stocking stuffer was a book…but this was a very special book that she never knew she wanted yet would treasure for many years to come.

After my grandfather passed away when I was six years old, I spent every Christmas Eve at my grandmother’s apartment. I would sleep on a squeaky cot in her bedroom, and my stocking hung from a dresser next to her own bed. It was quite literally a stocking --- possibly the very same nylon she’d wear the next day --- but I didn’t care.

At some point during the night, she would sneak into the bedroom to plant the presents.  Naturally, since I was so excited, I would always be wide awake to watch her unload my gifts into the stocking, although they rarely all fit.

Now that she is gone, I have so many questions for my grandmother that she will never be able to answer. First, why didn’t she use a bigger stocking? Also, why did she put the stocking in the same room where I was sleeping? I mean, she had to figure I would almost certainly observe her (and not Santa) filling them with presents. And yet I never busted her, and I never once cheated and peeked at what was inside the stockings.

The next morning was always filled with excitement as we sat together on her bed, and she watched me reverently extract each present from the stocking one by one. We must have repeated this same routine at least five or six times, but I still remember my very favorite present from all of those years:

It was a book.

Well, more specifically, it was a diary.

Before that morning, I never knew I wanted a diary, but when I saw the six-inch square book, I realized it was what had been missing from my life. And what a diary it was! The cover was made from flimsy blue plastic, adorned with a three-dimensional flower design. The pages were divided into four sections, each dyed a different color of the rainbow. And the best part? It had alock on it, with two tiny keys attached by a little gold ring. It was the diary every nine-year-old girl dreamed of.

That was before the internet, so I spent an untold number of hours opening and closing that lock with the tiny keys. Over the next year, I filled every page of that little diary (front and back) with my neat print --- an impressive task given how utterly uneventful my life was. The contents were of interest to absolutely nobody, but I still took the time to hide the key in an undisclosed location (because nobody could possibly break through the thin strip of plastic holding the lock in place). Then when I ran out of pages in the diary, I stuffed it in an old Hello Kitty lunchbox in the back of my closet.

In the years since then, most of the diaries I’ve kept have been on my computer. I type fast and print slowly, so it just made more sense. But I will never forget the way that first plastic diary felt in my hands and the excitement of turning the key to keep my secrets safe from the world.