Simplicity and Love: Homemade Gifts

I’m slipping back, for a moment, three decades to when we lived on our Catskill dairy farm. When my children were small, we made all our gifts by hand, creating remarkable memories and tangibles that I treasure to this day. The gifts were simple: one Christmas my son, Chip, made three wooden Christmas ornaments and hand-painted them, Polly made a hand-stitched felt stocking ornament with a tiny bear peeking out the top, and Susan crafted a Betty Butterfly paper ornament with three-layered wings that survives 30+ years later.

Last year my oldest daughter re-awakened those Christmas traditions and made her gifts, which warmed me. Although it was too late for me to make gifts I like to make, pieced and quilted place-mats or tote bags, knitted hats or scarves or a even sweaters, Polly re-set the bar for me for next year, and I’m making my plans.

I treasure homemade. When I touch such a gift in my home, there’s a feeling of near-sacredness about it, no matter how long ago I received it. This year two hand crafted gifts appeared under the Christmas Eve tree for me:



Polly has a good friend in our town who has mentored her wood-crafting skills, and made his substantial wood shop available to her; there she created a variety of gifts: mine was the picture frame above. The photo in the frame is one she took of Hilary and me the night Polly came to say good bye to Hilary, as her long life was coming to a close. When I unwrapped the gift, what I held in my hand literally took my breath away; I couldn’t speak for several seconds as I embraced it.

The basket contains three bottles of herb-flavored olive oil that Chris, Polly’s significant other, made. Our family is gifted with people who enjoying cooking and the pleasures that embrace it; Chris brings  many delectable new techniques to our collective skills.

The three infused flavors are: red pepper, rosemary, and garlic. The red pepper oil looks a little dangerous to me with that half-inch of peppers on the bottom, yet I’ve gotten to enjoy hotter food as the years have passed.



Above is a recent photo of Chris and Polly, doing what they especially enjoy: creating and sharing good food with friends and family. While Chris may be in the shadows of the kitchen’s low lighting, as a person, he truly shines.


About Mary Jo Doig

At the turn of the millennium, I arrived at a cross-road that brought me to a splendid, if unforeseen place, almost as if I were a traveler on Robert Frost's The Road Less Traveled. I was single again, my three children were grown and building their lives, I'd experienced a health issue and was working on an improved lifestyle. I also ached to do two other things: (1) change my long human services career in upstate New York's Catskill Mountains, where winter seemed to be at least seven months out of every year, and (2) move to a warmer place in the universe. My decision: did I want to continue on the path I'd been following pretty much all my life, or could I gather my then-fragile courage and start life brand new somewhere else? These were scary thoughts for a single woman in her late 50s. Five hundred miles away, though, I fell in love with a new mountain range, Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains, where I knew not a soul except my daughter who was attending college in the Shenandoah Valley, and I moved. I rented a tiny cabin on a mountain in the woods and lived there in solitude for two years, working in a new career by day and, when home, communing with the incredible natural beauty that surrounded me. There I also began to write my life stories, which were aching for release. I joined the Story Circle Network in early 2001, a rich place in cyberspace for women life writers, where I strengthened my written voice and began sharing my stories. I found so many opportunities to grow: 10 year facilitator for an online writing circle of women writers across the country; thirteen year editor of the "True Words from Real Women" section of the quarterly Journal; a reader and reviewer of women's memoirs for the SCN Book Review site; program chair for two Stories from the Heart national conferences in Austin, T. Presently I'm teaching Women's Life-Writing and Older Women's Legacy workshops in my part of the world in Central Virginia and facilitating the ongoing Circle of Memories Writing Circle (formerly an OWL workshop that continued on) at the Crozet Public Library. I am blessed with three wonderful children, a son and two daughters; a small, huge-hearted family; dear friends; my beagle Addie and cat Button. My hobbies include reading, writing, editing, cooking, gardening, quilting, knitting, biking, and simply being with the profound beauty of the mountains that embrace my small two acres in the Blue Ridge. The life stories I began writing in 2001 have grown deeper with time, re-writes, and personal growth. All these years later, I'm scheduled to publish my memoir, Stitching a Patchwork Life, in 2018.
This entry was posted in Change, Childhood, Family, Gifts, Gratitude, Mystery, Simplicity. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Simplicity and Love: Homemade Gifts

  1. Mary Jo, I admire you and your family making handmade gifts. I’ve never been good at this and would like to be. You’ve given me some ideas. Thank you. I can see why you treasure the picture of you and Hillary. What a touching momento.


  2. Mary Jo Doig says:

    Linda, wouldn’t it be fun if we could get together sometime in Ohio and make or at least start making some gifts together? I have on my bucket list to visit Ohio one of these months to visit and write with Jude and hopefully visit you, too.


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