On my way over, Alan asked me what my favourite Christmastime memory was, and my first thought was of my mom, making gifts by hand for all our relatives. She never seemed to run out of ideas, nor did she ever seem to come up against a material or medium she couldn’t work. Salt-dough candle holders festooned with perfect miniature fruit? Done. Tole-painted wooden signs? Done. Crepe paper angel tree toppers? Done! Macaroni angels, fabric angels, cellophane sparkly blue translucent angels? Done. (I’m noticing an angel trend, are you?) One Christmas, Mom and Dad decided to make my brother and I a pair of hobby horses from scratch. I remember hours of cursing after our bedtime, but in the end, two incredible horses were found under the tree that year.
I think that watching my mother’s meticulous persistence in tackling any and all crafting media has made me the fearless artisan I am today.
In recent years her confidence seems to have slipped a little—we took a tole painting course together and created a pair of really hideous Christmas balls—but I think that’s ridiculous. That same year she asked for canvasses and paint for Christmas, and just on a whim she painted two deep and expressive paintings of poppies. On a whim.
I have to give a nod to my dad, too; he was the one who got me into drawing, because I’d try to stump him with demands like, “Draw a giraffe! Now draw a tiger!” when I was a kid; and somehow Dad could always draw what I asked for. Yesterday I showed him Sculpey (a bakeable polymer clay), and set him to work on a chicken statuette he wanted to make. Two hours later there stood on the table one of the finest, if weirdest, chickens you’ll ever see. It was holding a syringe and a strip of clay bacon. It’s an inside joke.
But my mom: all those years watching her work—laying out the supplies, choosing the glue, cutting the perfect tiny pieces, mastering the paints—that was (and still is) my favourite Christmas memory. It’s not Christmas til there’s glitter stuck to your face, third-degree glue gun burns on your fingers, and paint on your jeans.
Christmas for me has always been made by hand, with love and meticulous care. It’s much the same anytime we’re expressing love to one another: lay out all your goodies, proceed with conscientious care, and be entirely fearless. Sometimes it’ll work out, and sometimes it won’t. But anything you put your heart into, no matter how much of a fail it is, was worth the effort and is worth remembering.
This Christmas, remember it’s the thought that counts…and also the effort, the care, and the blood/sweat/tears. This transcends any price tag.