Christmas at our house will be different from those of the past. Last year, our family, consisting of my husband and me, four grown children, their spouses, and five grandchildren, decided to make handmade gifts. A whole year seemed like plenty of time for each person to make one gift so we drew names with anticipation.
I imagined that hammers would pound, saws would buzz and needles would click during the year as we set to work making this Christmas so different we would cherish it as one of our best.
Now, with only a few days until Christmas, nobody seems to have completed a gift and some haven’t even started.
At least one member keeps saying, “Where am I going to find time to make something? Anyway, I always liked shopping for Christmas!”
Another says he can’t make anything. That’s what he said when we decided on this plan but nobody believed him. Suddenly, with no homemade gift in sight, we believe him! But that’s okay. We know that the person whose name he drew will somehow receive a gift.
What about the grandchildren, ages eight to eleven–what can they make? Or do I underestimate them? Some of them have made key chains for yard sales, so I’m sure they’ll think of something with help from their parents.
Another member moans, “I can’t think of anything to make. What would he want? What would he use? Whose idea was this?”
As for the gift for the person whose name I drew, I have a pattern, I have the materials, I even have the time. So why am I waiting to start the project? I think I like deadlines and work best under pressure.
I always liked wandering through the shops on Christmas Eve with carols playing, bells ringing, the rush of the crowd, people buying gifts for their loved ones. I liked searching for a final gift, then breathlessly finding it just in time.
When I’m Christmas shopping, the only thing that disturbs me is that of the less fortunate looking longingly at gifts they can’t afford for their loved ones.
But even that usually doesn’t dampen my Christmas spirit. My own parents often had little money for gifts but we always celebrated Christmas. One year, my mother had given birth to my brother on December 18th. But my daddy saved Christmas Day–he made the meal and tried his hand at homemade candy, the family’s only gift that year, unless we count hearts filled with love and gratitude.
I trust my family is aware of our love for each other as we recall the Birth of Christ in Bethlehem that First Christmas–the reason why we celebrate.
And I hope the daughter who drew her dad’s name doesn’t make something to land in a yard sale like the big fish grill she gave her brother one year. And maybe she won’t tape her package so well that it requires a set of all-steel kitchen knives to open it. In years past, we have all laughed together as we teased her about keeping the transparent tape companies in business.
Creative we may not be, but a family we are, and this Christmas promises to be different because one of us had the courage to suggest giving homemade gifts.
Now, as I reach for my scissors, needle and thread, late one evening, Christmas lights in the little town of Shirley blink clearly, brightly and silently. I am far from the ringing bells, the sound of Christmas carols, but I am close to a love which surrounds me, just as surely as the angels sang to the shepherds that night long ago. Can I weave this emotion into my small project, I wonder, as quietly, lovingly, I recall the family member who suggested this different idea for gift giving.
c Copyright, 1996, Freeda Baker Nichols
Published in Van Buren County Democrat, 1996