Thanks be to…the handmades
I grew wise to the Santa lie when I became suspicious of the bar codes slapped on Santa’s gifts. I mean, if the dude was really sitting up in the frigid yonder with all his elves banging out hand-made gifts for the kiddies, what did they need bar codes for? I thought such mass commercialism was reserved for the shelves of Toys R Us. Wait a minute…That’s when it dawned on me. Santa was Toys R Us. I was devastated
And then I proceeded to pretend for the entire next year that I had never put two and two together (with the help of some suspicious white and black lines) and went right on professing the Santa-with-his-lovingly-handmade-gifts lie.
I was a weird kid.
And maybe I grew up into a weird big kid because the other day, a random conversation got me thinking about what outfit I’d want to be buried in (long story, but I promise I have no plans of going anywhere soon, which is good news for the funeral outfit crisis I’m having), and I realized that the only clothes that would bring me comfort in my inanimate state would be clothes that my grandmother made. The old-fashioned way. We’re talking sewing pattern and sewing machine.
Maybe I’m still harboring resentment over Santa’s sell-out to the big box stores, but I really treasure the Handmade things in my life.
I was going to write about my favorite high chair. It’s great, we love it, and it was worth every precious penny invested in it, but then I thought about the Handmades. And since my high chair arrived in a box with a bar code, why don’t I save that for a future post?
Today I’m giving thanks for the Handmade with Love items in my life.
Like this adorable Peter Rabbit dress (hand-smocked) that my mom’s dear friend Patty made for me when I was unimaginably little and now passed on to Little Friend.
And this angel blanket crocheted by Little Friend’s chosen grandmother, Nana Nancy. While the size and simplicity are perfect for an infant or a toddler who wants to coddle her baby dolls, the angel blanket is a gift to the mom as well as she tucks it around her baby at night and breathes an extra prayer of angelic protection for her own little angel (who just that night had a snowstorm of kicking that resulted in a Mama’s favorite necklace broken, but darn it all, doesn’t the little urchin just look saintly with her eyes closed and thumb in her mouth?) Knowing that loved hands looped love into the blanket with each needle flourish makes the blanket an extra special Handmade gift.
Another gift with an impressive legacy is Hug Me, the sock doll first created for Big Friend by his Grammy. The tradition carries on with the current Hug Me hand-made by Little Friend’s Grammy. My mother-in-law tells how she got practice at making such adorable stuffed sock dolls: Big Friend used to poke his little finger into his Hug Me and push out all the stuffing, a mortal wound that required swift replacement. Now Little Friend takes the doll’s name as a command so that each time I ask, “Where’s Hug Me,” she picks up the doll and squeezes it. Hard. It’ll be no time before the stuffing pops out.
Not to be outdone by his wife, my father-in-law competes in the Handmade-with-Love scene through his woodworking. A gifted carpenter and handyman, Pop-Pop made a stool for Little Friend that looks almost too perfect to be used. But aren’t the scuffs, bumps, scrapes, and gouges what make a Handmade gift particularly well-loved? So we’ve marred the stool’s perfection with each hand washing and teeth brushing session.
Little Friend was cradled in love from the first night home from the hospital. While we waited to snatch her from the NICU, we squeezed her cherry wood cradle in beside my bed. It’s the cradle my dad made for me when I was born. Little Friend was the second generation (not counting my dolls who had generous cradle time as I grew up) to snooze away the moonlit hours surrounded by Handmade Love from Grandpa.
Let’s not forget Meme’s Handmade contribution. My mom is handy with creativity and a pair of sewing shears, so Little Friend joins a family tradition of the Birthday Banner. Sometime in my tween years (does that count as once upon a time, long, long ago?), my mom generated the great idea to make birthday banners for my sisters and I to record a special event from each passing year. The banners hung in our house for our birthday month (or months, if packing them away for next year fell too far down on the to-do list). When Little Friend turned one, I had a major request for Meme: “Can you help me make a birthday banner?”
My birthday banner is filled with memories of my growing up years.
Little Friend’s is a blank slate for memories to come.
So this Christmas season, I’m going to take a page out of Santa’s handbook (the one without the bar code on the back), and go after the handmade gifts for those on my gift list. I can’t compete with the pages of Toys R Us’s Great Big Christmas Book (I’m thinking of the whiny brat in Babe who rejects her grandfather’s lovingly built doll house because it doesn’t look like the one in the catalog). But I’m going to place my money on the long-term impact of the Handmades.