We always intended that Christmas stockings would last just as long as our daughter's belief in Santa Claus. Once she told us in that patronising tone that she knew - of course she knew - that the sack-bearing, chimney-fixated man in the red suit was a fiction we would cut out the pile of little extras and invest all in a single large gift (or at least a smaller, more costly selection).

It was going to be a relief, too, because my well meaning sister-in-law who lives in Sweden had provided a stocking that looked like it would fit Rubeus Hagrid, and keeping it full was no cheap undertaking.

So, how I came to be filling the monster last year with nail-polish, hair-dye, lipstick and earrings, I'm not quite sure, except that every time I said "No more" her face would come over all tragic and lip-quivery, and I was left wth the feeling that beside me, Scrooge was the epitome of the Christmas spirit. If I didn't have to spend my nights jauntering round the country with educational ghosts, that expression said, then there was no justice in the world.

This year, however, I was not to be thwarted. In the previous twelve months, the next generation had left school (and briefly, home) and spent more time declaring her right to be adult, independent and unfettered than she had actually doing anything productive with her new adult, independent and unfettered life - or so it looked from my, admittedly jaundiced, perspective. That being the case, I reasoned, she had no excuse for demanding anything so childish as a Christmas stocking. Let her unleash the lip on me, let her face fall, let tears sparkle on her lashes, I was adamant.

Besides, this year we were traveling 12000 miles to spend Christmas with my parents in England, and the only stockings I was concerned with were the compression type that are supposed to combat deep vein thrombosis.

We have finally farewelled the stocking for good, just like I've been trying to for years.

So why do I feel bereft?