Each Christmas, I make a handmade gift or two, and I encourage the kids to do the same. This year, I decided on hats for a string of little children in the family. As I sat, head bowed toward the whirring sewing machine, my little son wandered into the room, watched me in wonder, and then retrieved his big sister’s pink Barbie sewing machine. Tiny pushed papers under the battery-operated safety needle and “sewed” to his heart’s content. He used each scrap that he completed to giftwrap one of his toy cars for his father. When he was done, he showed me a softball-sized wad of crumpled paper, bits of masking tape pasting loose ends in place. He must have labored for forty-five minutes in near silence. I have never seen him work so hard nor so quietly.
His sister sat not far from us, also fairly silent. Spread on the floor about her were around a dozed projects she had crafted—little paintings or ornaments from plastic gimp. She clumsily wrapped each one, tied them up with ribbon and strips of fabric or old bows. By the end of the evening, she had a pile of Christmas cheer. Later, I fingered the bows and the awkwardly folded packages, and considered the tenderness in which these precious items were created and wrapped.
My favorite gifts have always been the handmade ones. My cousins in Ohio labored each Christmas to produce beautiful crafts that I still have or still remember fondly. One year, they painted wooden ornaments and personalized them with our names. Another year, they made fabulous watermelon-slice placements—complete with painted seeds. Sorrowfully, the flood that followed Katrina took the placemats.
Last year for my parents, I sewed pillows with pictures of my children on them. Another year, I made tied-fringe fleece lap blankies. For my first ever married Christmas at the tender age of twenty-three, I made salt-clay angel ornaments for my husband. The egg carton angel from first grade--I still have that, too, and enjoy displaying.
Some things last, some don’t. But the memories I have of holding those finely crafted items in my hands, of enjoying them on the tree or table or wherever--that lasts forever.