It was then that our daughter Mary had a brilliant idea. “We can make something. Handmade gifts are always fun and welcome.”
2013 marks the 20th year of our handmade gift exchange. There have been some wonderful and also some very wacky and unusual presents.
To wit (in no particular order and claiming the limitations of memory):
- A sweatshirt decorated with a small cousin’s handprints
- Bongo drums
- A whiskey cake
- A wooden revolving rubber band shooter, given to a young nephew who promptly shot out a light and was grounded.
- Hand-painted wine glasses
- Decorated Christmas ornaments
- A small pink football for a new granddaughter because girls need to play, too—given by her grandfather who had to learn the ins and outs of a sewing machine to do it.
- A bat house
- A handmade Advent calendar
- To various people one year, flannel sleep pants, sewn by a family who practically turned their house into a sweatshop to do it.
- A xylophone made out of steel tubing on an oak base and filed to near perfect pitch with an electronic tuner.
- A book of personalized haikus
- A rosary ring fashioned from a nonmagnetic bolt by our son who was on a submarine at the time. The box it came in was carved from a Pine Wood Derby kit.
- Framed photographs
- A family recipe book
- A painted birdhouse
- Soup in a jar.
- A wooden tray made from pottery shards found on the island of Ischia.
- Things knitted and carved and sewn and glued and painted and constructed out of an incredible array of materials by hands old and young, creative and not so, stained and sticky and sometimes bandaged.
Has our two decade old gift-giving project been perfect? Of course not. We are human. We err. We forget, we procrastinate, we feel less than adequate at times. We give in to buying instead of making when time is crunched. We sometimes grumble if we’ve made an effort and someone else hasn’t. Our good intentions are often left on the cutting room floor. We’ve been on the verge of giving up. But in the bond of family can be found the grace of forgiveness and redemption and second chances.
The gift of Christmas came to us in a hand-hewn manger. May our small tokens to one another, no matter what form they take, spread our love and Christ’s peace to a world in desperate need of both.