Ever since my children were small, we’ve encouraged them to give handmade presents, wanting them to learn early on that time is a far more precious gift than money. Of course, the truth is, we’ve always had more time than money. But even if we won the lottery tomorrow, I’d still value most those hours that my children spent creating something just for me.
When Ariel was six, we gave her a potholder loom. You know—the kind with the loops that you stretch and weave into colorful potholders and trivets. I had one growing up, and my mama always loved the potholders I gave her most every Christmas and birthday when I was small. I treasure the ones that Ariel has made (and still makes) for me, too. Even now…fourteen years and many potholders later.
As Benjamin got older and became a guitar player of considerable skill, he began to offer, as his gift, to learn any song on the guitar we wished him to. No matter how hard. We each get to pick a song, and this year, I chose Jingle Bells played like Tuck Andress plays it on one of my favorite Christmas albums—Hymns, Carols, and Songs about Snow. Of course, one of the songs I love most that Benjamin has learned for me is Ave Maria (by Schubert) played in the style of the late, great Chet Atkins. It always makes me cry.
When Ariel was eight, she surprised me one Christmas with a pop-up book she’d made just for me. It was a pop-up book of fairies. I’ve been fascinated with fairies since I was small, when I could actually see them. Or, at least, I thought I could. As I got older (and more cynical), I stopped seeing fairies, but I continue to love and believe in them and hope that one day I’ll be able to see them again.
In the years since, Ariel has made a fairy pop-up book for me about every two Christmases. (They are way too time-consuming to make every year.) It has been a delight to witness her artistic growth through the fairy books over time. Of course, I treasure every single one, but I’d have to say that the one she made me last year is probably my favorite. Below is a spread from it:
This year, for Christmas, she made me a bead fairy. She designs them herself, and they are different every year. Here is this year’s fairy:
And here is one she made me for my birthday last year. This fairy’s wings are made from actual peacock feathers:
For her daddy, Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man, Ariel made a bead flower. Over the years, she has made him an entire bead garden—daisies, irises, Turk’s Cap lilies, ferns, pansies, Johnny-jump-ups, and columbine. This year, she made one of his favorites (and mine), the zinnia:
So, despite the melancholy I wrote of earlier, I still had a lovely and most blessed Christmas. How could I feel otherwise as I gaze at my new bead fairy shimmering in the morning sun and listen to my son playing Ave Maria just for me?
As a lower-income person, I would never be one to romanticize being poor. It is most often a grim business—struggling to pay your electric bill or buy food or keep a roof over your head. But, in a society that so often encourages the pursuit of material things, having less money with which to buy those things can free you to focus on what is really important. To focus on what is true and pure and genuine…and unaffected by economic downturns.
I can’t say I thank God for being of modest means. As I said, it’s often been a grievous hardship. But I do thank Him for the clarity to see that, in so many ways, I am already rich and blessed with abundance. That, truly, my cup runneth over.