Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Childlike Christmas #3: Presents

(Me and my little brother seeing what Santa brought us, circa 1969)

We put up the Christmas tree on Saturday, and immediately Will went to work making presents to put under it. Actually, I think he's been working for a while, drawing things and cutting out pictures. Will is a big believer in homemade presents.

I was, too, when I was his age, mostly because it was fun to put gifts under the tree, especially in the early days of the season, when you wanted that space to fill up quick! I still like making gifts, come to think of it--check this space soon for pictures of the quilts I've been working on and just might have finished in time for Christmas.

I'm actually not a great gift buyer. Mostly what I like to receive is books, and sometimes it's hard for me to imagine that other people like gifts they don't have to read. I still give a lot of books, but I also fill boxes with handknit socks and quilts, and lots of pink stuff for the nieces, since my boys don't much appreciate pink stuff.

In third grade, I took lots and lots of quarters to the post exchange, where there was a vending machine with small plastic NFL football helmets inside clear plastic domes. That's what I got for my brothers that year. I think my brothers liked them.

Every year at Christmastime, I had a 6" tree on my beside table that my mother made by wrapping pink tulle around a Styrofoam cone. I wrapped up small white cardboard jewelry boxes and matchboxes, put them around the little pink tree, and imagined what might be in them.


How old was I when my grandparents started sending me money instead of gifts? Second grade? Third? Ten dollars--a huge amount! I never wished they'd sent a gift instead, and yet I still can't bring myself to send my nieces and nephew gift cards, no matter how much I suspect they'd like them.


My parents gave us all sorts of presents via Santa Claus, but probably the best present they gave us was the gift of family traditions, many of which I still keep. Today I spent the afternoon making small loaves of bread for the boys' teachers. Will, coming down the stairs as if drawn by the wonderful smell of good things baking in the oven, asked, "Is it time for banana bread already?" I thought it was nice that he knew the scent of banana bread by heart. My mother made banana bread for friends and neighbors every Christmas, and it's what we nibbled on as we opened our Christmas presents on Christmas morning. It is one of the most distinctive smells of Christmas I know, and now Will knows it, too.


Betty said...

It's so interesting to learn about how people in other parts of the world celebrate Christmas and keep traditions, your family photo is real treasure! I think it is so right that gifts are made whenever possible, it means thought and love has gone into them and makes giving and surprising something that even a child can do.

Pom Pom said...

I love your doll house! I had one like that in the sixties, too. I wish I still had it.
We would wrap our stuffed animals in towels from the linen closet in the hallway (I'm sure my mother LOVED us for undoing her folding) and place them under an imaginary tree. We loved playacting, opening them up and saying, "Wow!"
Another awesome Frances post! LOVE!

Gumbo Lily said...

Great family picture! Look at that doll house! I love handmade gifts too and I like to give books for gifts.

I'm glad Will knows the smell of banana bread baking by heart. It's a good Christmas (or any day) smell.

magsmcc said...

I am playing a slow moton catch-up this week, but have to call in with you- adoring the picture and loving the post! I walked around Waterstones in a blur today, while PC endeavoured to whittle though His List. I did present him with a little Carol Ann Duffy book that would be perfect in "someone's" stocking. Otherwise could not interest myself in anything, so loud was the buying and selling and laying waste our powers! It's nearly time to wish you a resounding Merry Christmas, wonderful Frances!

victoria said...

It's a wonderful photo!
I really like the look of that doll's house.
Books are my favorite presents to recieve too. This year my extended family is having "Secondhand / Homemade Christmas" so I am giving a lot of people books from my bookshelves that I feel they should read (ha ha).

The dB family said...

Very interesting! I love that Will recognizes that the scent of banana bread means it's Christmas just like you did as a child.


Tracy said...

I've decided to be the 'Book Aunty'. This year I've only to buy for an older nephew & niece (adults) so they'll get gift vouchers as requested. But for my brothers who have little nieces are getting books with their names in the titles - "Amazing Grace" and "My Name is Not Isabella". I've got a couple of little things to go with that, but I guess I wanted to instill a love of good literature and beautiful illustrations into these little lives.

Sandy H said...

I had completely forgotten about the metal dollhouse! The picture brought back the smell of metal, the feel of it cold (and just a little dusty) under my fingers, and that one sharp edge that I would run my finger across frequently as if daring it to cut me. Cheap plastic furniture with spindle legs bent every which way....

Until recently, I was the Book Aunt. Now I seem to be the Quilt Aunt. I'll take that trade.