Wednesday, November 18, 2009

As the days get shorter...

I start to think about the holidays. More specifically, I start to think about what to make for the holidays. I can't help it. Starting in October I turn into a very large elf. And I wouldn't have it any other way. And it's genetic because my sisters are all the same.

I remember childhood Christmases. We would make ornaments for the tree and simple gifts at church. One year we knitted simple slippers. We made Christmas cookies and fudge and painted pictures.

I love to shop, don't get me wrong. Shopping is pretty darn fun. All those wonderful things out there, shiny new, wrapped in layers of plastic wrap, packing foam and nestled in their fabulously decorated cardboard boxes, just waiting to be wrapped in more paper, prettier this time and accompanied by ribbons and/or glitter. But the problem is, I only have so much money, so the shopping is pretty short lived.

As for making gifts, now that lasts much longer and is, in the end, a much more satisfying gift giving event. I get to spend hours thinking about the possible gift ideas. Poring through books and magazines crammed with ideas. Thinking about each person on my list and what I think they would like to receive. Then I get to go through my stash of supplies (and believe me, there is quite a stash of supplies to be gone through - sometimes I even find supplies for gifts I intended to make in previous years but never got around to) and pull out the things I will need to make the gifts I've decided to create.

Some years I know I will have limited time. Last year, for example, I was in the middle of preparing for my portfolio show, so my gift making was limited to jam. Other years I decide I must make one item that is so big, so glorious, and so time consuming that no one else will make it onto the home made list. They still get gifts, of course, but the recipient of the one gift is just lucky that year.

After all the lovely planning, which is much of the fun, I settle down to the actual creation. This is when I really start to feel the spirit of the holidays. I put on some holiday music or a fun holiday movie, and start to work. In some ways it's like a magic spell. Hours of labor spent, while thinking about the person who will receive the gift. Pursuing small creative impulses and embellishments. Thinking about presentation and purpose. All of this ties in to the process of gift making and creates a memory that stays with me, long after the glow of purchasing a great gift has passed.

My husband laughs at me because I'm almost always more excited about others opening gifts I've chosen for them, and especially gifts I've made for them, than I am to open gifts for myself. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE getting gifts, but there is something about seeing someone enjoy a gift you've made that just gets me going. I can barely restrain myself. Especially when I really think I've gotten it right.

My parents and sisters and their families all live far away from me. We don't usually spend the holidays together. So it is a little disappointing to pack the gifts in a box and send them off, to be opened unseen, although I do still enjoy the gift exchange. And it doesn't have to be elaborate, or expensive. It's not about that for me. I just like to send my loved ones a little something to remind them that I think about them, even when we're not together.