Gift in Kind

My mother was conflicted about the holidays. She was a spiritual soul and quiet Christian and was attached to the rhythms of the Christian calendar. She attended church if the architecture compelled her, or if it boasted a great choir, but was never drawn to the built in community of a congregation. My sister and I pressed her on this once and she swiftly replied: “Well, it’s a good place to be a fraud.” That vexed my dedicated church going sister (who embodied humility and reverence) to no end. Mother loved the pageantry of Christmas but loathed the commercialism around the rest. And she always succumbed in the end and fell into the shopping frenzy like the rest of us. And then she fell into the same despair year after year.

I had fallen into a similar groove; Christmas was making me grumpy. This year I wanted to avoid the slump and made as many presents as I could. There are many movements invoking a simpler, handmade Christmas, so I am hardly a pilgrim here, I did worry that this whole experiment would take time I didn’t have. I potted amaryllises in recycled old vases from thrift stores and made preserves from our apple orchard. It did take more time than moving around a mouse on a screen, but not as much as I had anticipated. I dedicated a day to pulling it all together. I always force bulbs and put up cans, so making extra wasn’t a big deal. I think this was the key — just expand what you already do and you won’t be overwhelmed. And for those in the tightest circle — my family — I am giving what they really need and a few books. There will be no last minute rush to even everyone’s gift tally.

I received a dividend I did not anticipate — an extra spot of joy. I loved seeing the flowers grow, loved the response when I distributed them, and even enjoyed slapping labels onto the cans. And canning jars and bulbs can be used again. Works for me.