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.