Chat @ Caregiving: Putting Your Hand Into It

Anybody can go out and buy Christmas decorations, but when you choose to put yourself into the season, it changes you.

My mom is the one who taught me that.  One of my prized possessions is the red felt stocking she made for me when I was nothing but a tiny elf myself. The first ingredient in all of Mom’s delicious home-cooked holiday feasts was love.  Long before it was time to baste the turkey she’d bake sugar cookies and decorate them.  She labored over batches of divinity topped with marichino cherries and walnut halves.  She’d crack pecans for days to get enough “pretty ones” to decorate her delicious chocolate fudge.  She never told me that it was important to put yourself into Christmas, she merely demonstrated it, time and time again.

I did not inherit Mom’s chef gene, but I did inherit her entertaining gene.  I may buy my Christmas dinner at Market Street and my chocolate from Godiva, but I love setting my table, decorating my house and wrapping my gifts.  Before I had my own home to entertain in I honed my skills with crafts.

The white yarn doll on the far right was the first Christmas ornament I ever made.  If my memory serves me correctly I made it at a Brownie meeting.  I was only in Girl Scouts for a few years.  It seems there was some sort of rule about the leader having to take the scouts camping or provide a way for them to earn the camping related badges that our leaders were unwilling to offer.  I think that’s when Mom made me start taking piano lessons.

But whether it was at a Brownie meeting or an art class I remember the challenge of tying the yarn and attaching the felt cap.  I gleefully glued the faceted black balls onto my doll while other more fastidious crafters sewed  traditional four-hole buttons onto theirs.  What really set my doll apart in my opinion was the small strip of beads I found in the button jar to belt around the waist.  When I was finished, I realized other people had created dolls  demonstrating superior skills at the various tasks required, but when I presented my doll to my mother, those other girls weren’t anywhere around.  Mother oohed and aahed over my creation like I’d presented her with the Hope Diamond.  I was hooked.

The snowman and the fan were items I made from craft kits.  When I started making enough money to buy people gifts, I realized that my paycheck didn’t allow me to spend as much as I wanted to for presents.  So for many years I shored up my gifts by decorating them with ornaments I made myself.  Now, many years after the presents they adorned have long been forgotten, my little handicrafts still grace trees or find themselves being passed to others as decorations on gifts.

The quilted ball was the result of a grown-up craft class.  For many years the church I attended had Women’s Ministries on Wednesday nights.  Our Minster to Women would give a Bible lesson and then we’d break into small groups.  There were groups for everything from grief support to candy making, but I loved the craft classes.  Nowadays that church still has Women’s Ministry, but they’ve changed the format.  Fellowship and fun has been edged out by a more BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) approach.  Craft classes did not make the cut.

It’s sad the crafting has been demoted to frivolous.  I not only made quilted Christmas balls, decorated t-shirts and learned how to scrapbook, I made friends, shared prayer requests and discussed the lesson we’d been taught earlier in the evening.  As my hands were busy, I had time for real communication face to face with other women who were going through the same things I was.  Some were a little further down the road and others were were still behind me, but we all had something to contribute – and the discussions were not limited to the prepared questions.  I love my facebook friends, but we’re not going be able to get as real with one another as we did in those craft classes.

Life is busier these days than it was when I was a single girl trying to make it at my first career.  Nor do I have those beloved Wednesday night classes.  I still scrapbook with a friend once a week though and very little manages to be more important than scrapbooking night.  However, its been years since I made a Christmas decoration.

Mom doesn’t mind.  She gave me most of her Christmas stuff a few years back anyway.  Whatever time I don’t spend on crafting I do devote to other Christmas pursuits, but the marvelous thing about doing something like making a yarn doll or embroidering a fan is that for years to come, you not only have the thing that you made, but you have all the beautiful memories that go with it.

What kind of Christmas handicrafts do you do now or have you done in the past?  Which are you most proud of?  Which have touched the lives of others?  I really want to know.

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