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

Mary Jo Doig was the first in her family to attend college and graduated from the State University at Oneonta in New York’s Catskill Mountains with a degree in Secondary English Education/Educational Psychology. There she fell in love with rural life, remained, and eventually transitioned from city girl to country woman when she married a dairy farmer and raised their three children on their small family farm. A life-long lover of reading and writing, Mary Jo has for nearly twenty years been a member of the Story Circle Network. There she has been an editor, a women’s writing circle facilitator, a book reviewer, and life-writing enthusiast, working extensively with women writing their life-stories while writing her own memoir. Presently, she is a three-time Program Chair for SCNs national Stories from the Heart conference and a board member. She also facilitates Older Women’s Legacy workshops and a women’s life-writing circle in her area communities. Her stories have appeared in Kitchen Table Stories anthology, Story Circle Annual Anthologies, and most recently her story “I Can’t Breathe” was published in the Anthology, Inside and Out: Women’s Truths, Women’s Stories. Her work also appears in varied blogs and periodicals, on her blog Musings from a Patchwork Quilt Life (, Facebook, and Twitter. Her son and two daughters grown, Mary Jo presently treasures her country life in Virginia’s Central Shenandoah Valley. She loves cooking (and eating!) healthy food, reading, writing, quilting, hiking, and spending quality time with her rescue cats, Button and Xena, and beagle, Addie, who each dream of being only children. Her first book, Patchwork: A Memoir of Love and Loss, will be published in October, 2018 by She Writes Press.
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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