Homemade Gifts

100_2135smMy daughter’s birthday is fast approaching, and I still felt I hadn’t come up with a gift idea that was truly from me. I have often made special things for the kids for their birthdays, but they don’t always go over as I’d wish. Three years ago, I made her this awesome jeans jacket. I found an okay commercial pattern and modified it to fit my daughter’s tastes and frame. I spent ages searching for the perfect cool hardware bits to decorate the front. Then I had to order a zip from overseas, because I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted in country (because it had to match the hardware, of course). In the end, I was quite pleased with the results.

She has never worn the jacket. Not once. Not even for a few minutes.

The same thing happened with the skirt I made her four years ago (because the girl needed something other than shorts and T-shirts to wear). She’s worn the skirt…once or twice when I forced her to wear it to a formal occasion, and every time it’s led to tears.

That’s okay. It really doesn’t bother me. I had a blast making every homemade gift I’ve given the kids. If the kids don’t like them, I know that I’ll be able to give them to someone else who will. And some of them have gone over extremely well (all the stuffed animals, the jerseys and parkas, the zip-off pants, the slippers, the fuzzy bathrobes, the wizard costumes…).

I’ve received my fair share of awkward and excellent homemade gifts from the kids too. Because we all give and receive homemade gifts, we all understand and appreciate the time and love that went into each item, even if we wouldn’t be caught dead wearing it. It makes each gift special, regardless of what the item actually is.

And we learn from past mistakes.

This year, the homemade gift my daughter will receive is something I’m pretty certain she’ll appreciate and use–a list of 500 writing prompts, written just for her and categorised by genre. As usual, I’m having a fabulous time making it, and if she doesn’t end up using it, I expect to find it handy, myself.

The Spotted Owl

2016-10-05-16-43-05Back in the late 1980s, during the time when I was going to university, there was a great deal of controversy around the Northern Spotted Owl. Conservationists were trying to use the bird as a tool to limit logging of old growth forest in the Pacific Northwest by encouraging its listing as an endangered species (it was listed as threatened in 1990). It was a hot topic in conservation at the time.

Home for Christmas one year around that time, I was presented with a gift specifically from my grandfather.

That was odd. It was the women of the family—grandma and mom—who shopped for gifts. What could Grandpa have for me?

It was a small box. Inside, nestled in tissue paper was a small piece of wooden dowel with crude blotches drawn on it with a marker.

He watched me unwrap it, clearly struggling to hide a smile.

I pulled it out of the box and turned it around in my fingers. I was obviously supposed to figure out what it was. I wracked my brains. What was this spotted stick supposed to be?

It never occurred to me that it was a joke. I finally had to ask.

“It’s a spotted dowel!” Grandpa said, breaking into a grin.

I have no idea what other gifts I got that Christmas. No doubt, whatever they were, they’re long gone from my life.

But the spotted dowel has it’s own special place—its own little drawer in a small-parts organiser that holds all my buttons and beads and other odds and ends. I often run across it accidentally while looking for something else, and it still makes me smile.