Monday, December 29, 2008

Simple Gifts

I shall jot down notes on simple gifts of the Season. We learned some things this Holiday Season which should be keepers, or at least nourishment for seeds in Seasons to come.

Gift giving can be hard. Families are pretty dispersed these days. Sometimes we know little about lifestyles and things that make our families and friends cook. They often know the same about us. Since we know little of these things, we sometimes yield to marketer's blaring and fickle suggestions of what the other needs for a fast fix. Those suggestions are fickle, because marketers never seem to make up their minds, except that trends should change and, whatever they are, we need them. In other cases, life styles are not even on the same page. Getting and giving gifts represents a clash of values. Those seasons are hard, provoking more tension than the precious season is intended bring.

One should ponder the reason why we give gifts. I think we give gifts to show we love the other. Does the material really do that? Sometimes yes. Sometimes no.

I think the most wonderful of Gifts is "time". Time seems in precious short supply these days. Is that a Human construction? Is that the "real" of the world in which we were created to live? We all have 24 hours in our days and can only live in that present moment. We all have competing demands for our time and those demands only seem to be escalating. We all have choices we make. Spending time for or with the other seems the essence of love. When we give time which is a precious resource, we show them that they matter to us.

It seems to me that the major "unit of exchange" of our "advanced society" has become money. That is the world we humans have created. Yet, no amount of money can be spent to truly show another that they matter. For years, I have been caught up in the cycle of "giving gifts" and "heading to the mall or mail order at the last minute". I felt like I had to get something for the other. And I had to pay money for it. It took me many years to really consider how impossible and ridiculous this orientation was. These days, I choose to try a different way.

This year, we focused more on giving time. And these are some of the things we did:

Melanie and I made the basket for Mother/Grandmother. This was my 3rd basket in 60 years. I had not made a basket since the 5th grade. That basket was my 2nd; my 1st was made of popsicle sticks. Melanie had taken a basketmaking class this fall. She suggested that together we make a basket for Grandmother/Mother and she would teach me. She found me a willing student. It has been a while since she and I had engaged in a craft project together. So we gave a gift of time and talent for Mother/Grandmother which was also a gift of spending time with each other. Mother/Grandmother was thrilled. The Mother/Daughter duo was excited too. And I learned a new skill.

I pondered meaningful gifts for my family (including my brother, his family and Mother). What is it that we uniquely could give that would nourish our common ties to each other? What could we do that would take money off center stage? What is something that we and only we could give that would have value to the other?

I wanted to do something simple. After considerable thought, I concluded, once again that the best gift I could give was "time". This time, we gave a gift of the Croatian Bread "Povitica" which has meaning to all of us. This bread ties us to our shared Croatian heritage: to Dad, Aunt Anna, Aunt Mary, and Grandma Dora who are all our ancestors now. Until this Christmas, I was the only one in the family who knew how to make this bread; Melanie knows now but of course, it would take some practice. Along with gifts of those little plates of that beautiful bread, I also wrote the recipe and story of Povitica in our family. I invited others to share their stories too.

We also gave frozen fruit pies in the recipient's choice from those available (Blackberry, Cherry, Black Raspberry, and Peach). Word has it that my 17 year old nephew's family headed home that Christmas night to bake a Blackberry Pie after a stop for ice cream. I really want to give more frozen pies in the future. This is something a lot of folks do not have time or perhaps skill to make. I will need to do some follow-up to make sure that the Pies, when served, are at the standard this Master Pie-Maker requires.

We also gave Eggs under their own special Holiday label. The Hennies did their best to accommodate this one. We gave pints of Molasses to some folks who had a tradition of this in their families, albeit long ago. I had made Spiced Peaches for family members last summer from our little tree in the backyard. The recipe was one we reclaimed a few years back. I mailed a jar to Aunt Ruthie and Mother's Cousin Eileen, both of whom would have had such delights many years ago in their families. There were a couple of glitches in this one; I had intended for other family members to have a jar, but forgot in the busy-ness of the season or got sidetracked with the ice and storms.

Melanie sent handmade gifts from the farm to friend Angela in Poland. We shall not say much because these little gifts of love were tucked into the mail today.

We set aside 25% of our Christmas spending for Hope's Kitchen, the local soup kitchen. Writing out that check felt very good. In the face of another's hunger in our community, we should give more. I wonder if they could use some fresh garden veggies this summer?

Mother and I made little plates of little Christmas treats that we had made (with some support from Melanie). I wanted to reduce the sugar. We made the plates smaller, focusing on favorites which were lower in sugar content. We added pecans and "Clementines", both of which I love. These plates were especially intended for folks who do not often have time for such things and others who might be having a more difficult time this season. "Spending time" was the sweetness that we shared.

By the end, things were getting hectic, eroding the joyous spirit of the season. "Grrr..." "Now wait a minute." We did not get all of the gifts to people in a timely way. Plus, we did not have gifts made for everyone intended. We did our best to accept our limits in a peaceful and gentle way. That joyous spirit we intended to share with others should be 1st shared with us. Otherwise, what is the point? Those little gifts would somehow be hollow inside.

After these little adventures, I would conclude that simple gifts can be of the essence of what giving is supposed to be: "Love". They nourish that love that goes both ways.

No comments: