A few years ago, we made a decision as a family to each make one gift for each of the others (small family of 4). For some, the creative, artsy ones, this was not that hard. For others, they had a plan going in and also found it not so hard – time consuming, maybe, but not hard. And the last family member? He found it difficult. He googled, he cajoled, he asked around at the office, he looked for loopholes in the agreement that would allow him to buy something, like, maybe something from a craft fair – that would be home made, right? But not by him. We made him stick to the rules.
On Christmas Day we were all presented with beautifully arranged mason jar kits to bake cookies or brownies or soup. The youngest, 13 at the time, had knitted for each of us (mine was a dishcloth). The eldest, then 16, had made something different for each of us – mine was a cardboard frame for a picture, decorated with beach glass. I had typed up my trip journal and made a copy for each member of the family from our Europe trip that summer, and added photos of each of them in their copies. The forethought and effort to think of something the other person would like, that our skills could manage, was far, far more challenging than paying cash for something from the store. We had plenty of that too, under the tree, but the exercise of just one present for three other people was exhausting – but pleasantly so when we saw their pleasure in receiving it.
So much so, that we did it again the following year. And the next. We don’t have an official policy anymore, it’s just if someone wants to do it, and sometimes we don’t – time is a factor for the working stiffs among us, and for the students too. But there’s always special baked goodies for each of us now, and sometimes something crafted from wood or wool. Maybe a photo montage. Last year, the younger one did special little things for each of us in her metal jewellery shop class – mine was a cat shaped pen holder (it’s tail is corkscrewed to hold the pen).
The inspiration for this tradition came originally from reading Bill McKibben’s “Hundred Dollar Holiday”, one of his older books. But it’s one of those ideas that seems to surface in different places and at different times. Here in Canada, on our public radio station (CBC Radio) we have a storytelling show called The Vinyl Cafe, hosted by Stuart McLean. His stories revolve around Dave and Morley and their kids Stephanie and Sam. The story that resonates with me just now is called The Christmas Gift. If you have time in the next few days, and need something to doze off to after eating all the leftovers, give it a listen.
Merry Christmas from all of us at Sailors Small Farm.