I've got a strong urge to make gifts by hand this holiday season. Maybe I'm tired and turned off by cyber-this and virtual-that; I want something real and tangible. But there's one big problem: I don't do any crafts. As a teenager I made long paper chains made of folded bits of gum wrappers, but I don't think that counts.
This acorn fell pretty far from the family tree, because my mother used to be very gifted and artistic. She could paint, sketch, and cut impressive silhouettes out of dark construction paper. I remember her handmade ornaments and decorations, and I have a strong suspicion she re-ordered some of our Christmas tree-hanging arrangements, late at night after we went to bed with visions of sugarplums dancing in our heads, to make the tree more balanced and harmonious, to make it more beautiful.
One of my sisters sews beautiful quilts, but to my knowledge, she's the only one of us who currently does handcrafted projects. So what about the rest of us? My other sister has a knack for keeping family stories alive, and she devotes great energy in keeping us all connected. My brothers have musical gifts and hysterical senses of humor and huge hearts that find expression through all the ways they reach out to me and say "I love you." So maybe I don't need a craft after all.
Of course, the holidays are all about family and close friends. As I think of my siblings, I'm left wondering what I contribute. I write, but I don't write a lot of letters or emails. Months slip by before I pick up the phone. But I treasure my brothers and sisters, and I want to give something back for all the years of their love.
So I come back to writing, and a project comes to mind: an anthology of the genealogy data my mother collected before her death, family photos that I have digitized, and narratives that I can write about that genealogy, including additional history I've researched. My mother traced my father's family back to the seventeenth century, so by Christmas I'll probably only complete one chapter, of the first generation, but it's a start. As with all my writing, getting started is the hard part. Once I get rolling, I know I can go the distance.
For Christmas 2015, I'll print out the chapter as a newsletter and send it to them in binders, so that they can continue adding chapters as I complete them. And maybe by next year, I'll be able to make all the chapters into a book, and then I'll be able to say that I literally handcrafted their gifts. For now, I think they'll be happy with the fact that this first chapter is heartcrafted.