The Best Gifts

My dad always said that the best gifts are homemade. He lived by that too. Every Christmas the family would look forward to the hand crafted surprises made with love by him. His last career (of many) was working as a cabinet maker and kitchen remodeler. On Christmas Eve there would often be some new pieces of furniture or cabinetry with a big red bow, everything from footstools, sewing cabinets, baby cradles, to TV entertainment centers. Dad was also an amateur oil painter and sometimes had a new work to give. Another of his hobbies was collecting rocks, typically agates, that he would polish and with which he would make jewelry. When I was a teenager I followed his lead and presented crocheted shawls and afghans as gifts.

Dad's philosophy sprung from his youth when he grew up in northern Minnesota in a family that was short on money but long on talent and ingenuity. He told how at Christmas the big brothers would take a well used toy truck and fix it up, give it a new coat of paint and present it to the littlest brother as a new gift. Any of the years that the family was struggling stood out in memory as one most full of love at Christmas.

Our youngest boys are getting to an age where they can start employing their own skills and creativity for gift giving. This fall they learned from homeschooled friends how to make an archery set out of pvc pipes, duct tape and wooden dowels.
The simple bow works so well and is so much fun to shoot that the guys made three sets as gifts this year, one for a cousin and two for the neighbor boys. Sam and Peter had a great time in the local hardware store with their list, gathering up the various supplies they needed for their project which they purchased with their own hard-earned cash. Each bow set was spray painted a different color.

Duct tape has always been lauded for its versatility but who would have thought it would make good arrow fletching? I think Dad would have been proud.

The arrow tips can be blunted with pencil erasers but of course these boys want them sharpened.

Since Sam has been attending art school he is honing another skill to use for gifts. He gave several of his works for presents, including this special request from his dog-loving little brother. I helped Sam find a photo of a painting on the internet that he used as a reference to paint this St. Bernard at class with help from his teacher.

He gave this pencil drawing of Mt. Hood to his older brother and a lovely colored pencil rendering of a rose to me.

The homemade gifts didn't end there. The boys had requested aprons on their Christmas wish list so they wouldn't have to wear mom's girly things when they are helping in the kitchen. Their big sister came through with these homemade aprons that have a more manly appeal.

Gifts that are homemade have power to bring warm thoughts and memories of the giver. With the time and effort that goes into them they are expressions of love and thoughtfulness that are satisfying to the giver as well. I'm so glad my little boys are learning these lessons.