Author: Zuniga, Nancy

Simple Gifts

{NOTE: I wrote this column the day before Bruce Campbell's “Holiday Gift Ideas” welcome message appeared on the CBA web site yesterday. Hopefully, the content is different enough that readers won't be bored with columns dealing with the subject of gifts two days in a row. Much to Bruce's credit, his column contained a lot more bluegrass content than mine!}

When I was a kid, I used to ask my mom what gift she wanted for her birthday, for Mother’s Day, or for Hanukkah, and I could always predict her reply: Her second choice, after “good behavior,” was that I make something for her myself. Back then, I figured Mom’s reasoning was that she and my dad would indirectly be the ones footing the bill for anything I might buy, seeing as how any gift would be purchased with funds saved from my meager weekly allowance. In 1997, when my brother and I cleared our parents’ belongings out of their house, I was touched to find that my mother had actually saved many of the homemade gifts that I created for her over the years: drawings, paintings, animal figurines modeled from clay, and even a “certificate” from my brother and myself that could be redeemed for “ten days of good behavior” from each of us, with an added bonus: It was noted on the certificate that Mom need not use any of the ten days on her birthday, as we promised to be “good for nothing” on her special day. It seems that my mother's preference for homemade gifts wasn't motivated by thrift; our creations gave her something to hold on to that helped to preserve her memories of our growing-up years. We kids weren't the only ones giving Mom non-commercial gifts. My dad usually presented her with a handwritten poem on special occasions, and she saved every one of those, too.

I’ve gotten many chuckles out of what I consider to be the most bizarre gift ever given to me. Years ago, my son’s great-aunt Marge and great-uncle Paul who lived out of town paid us a visit. About a week before their arrival, Aunt Marge telephoned and asked me the color of my bathroom. I replied “pink,” and anticipated that she would probably bring me some pink hand towels or a pink soap dish. When she and Uncle Paul arrived, Aunt Marge immediately asked to see my bathroom. She then handed me a roll of pink toilet paper, with a pink lace-and-ribbon covering and little frou-frou pink silk flowers glued to the ribbons. Not really knowing how to react, I politely thanked her for the “pretty cover” she had made for the “spare roll of toilet paper.” Horrified, Aunt Marge exclaimed, “Oh no, this isn’t a spare roll! You never use this! This is beautiful! You hang this on your wall!” She then proceeded to remove a picture on my bathroom wall and hang the toilet paper in its place, at eye level. I humored her by leaving the roll of toilet paper on my wall until she and Uncle Paul had departed, and then I stuck it in a drawer, hoping I’d remember to hang the gawdawful thing back up if they ever came to visit again.

The holiday season is often referred to as “the season of giving.” Even in better economic times, the commercial hype bombarding us from November 1st through December 24th is enough to raise the stress level of anyone who isn’t independently wealthy. If you’re concerned about finding gifts for everyone on your list without breaking the bank, and if you have the time and inclination, you might consider making something that will be remembered long after the commercially mass-produced gifts are forgotten. Bluegrass content? Maybe you can record yourself singing and playing some of your favorite tunes and make CDs or DVDs to hand out to those on your gift list. If you can write and record an original song for your loved ones, so much the better! Whatever homemade item you give to those on your list, don’t be concerned that the recipients may regard your gift as “bizarre”. Aunt Marge passed away the day after Christmas last year at the age of ninety-five, and I confess that I've become pretty darned sentimental about the lacy toilet paper cover that she made especially for me so many years ago. But I still keep it in a drawer.

Posted:  12/3/2009

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