I made Christmas presents this year. This is not unusual for me; I’ve made them for the last 8 or 9 years at least. There are many reasons for this. First and foremost is that I want to get off the consumer merry-go-round that are western holidays. I also want to raise my children to understand the meaning behind the holidays, that it is about the connection with friends and loved ones rather than rampant shopping and spending. I want them to realize there is much more satisfaction in giving a gift that you spent time creating, putting in that time, and then having it come together, than there is wandering fluorescent aisles searching for something made in China along with a million other somethings made there. Finally, it does help to save somewhat, although the materials for everything I have ever made have not been cheap.
Over the years we have made many gifts. A couple of years ago we made candles. This was a great project to share with Milla. She loved improving her candle-making skills. We spent time together over several days crafting a variety of candles out of beeswax. It was a lot of work. Other years we have made candy and baked goods. We have made soap, and bottled bath oils. That was fun. Once the presents are made, I love wrapping them up in tissue and ribbon, presenting them beautifully.
This year I decided I would make scarves. Milla and I went together to the fabric store and chose some lovely crushed velvet in a variety of colors. For some, we chose some embellishments for the ends of the scarves to jazz them up. Milla really enjoyed this part of it. She likes decorating things. The two of us worked hard on the scarves. Milla helped a lot, and also made choices about which scarves should have decorations on them. Some of them had such beautiful fabric that any froufrou would have taken away from the scarves themselves. Milla loved having the sewing machine running all the time. She also made some incredibly beautiful little satin tie bags. I was impressed with her abilities. She has been taking sewing in school and I had no idea how much she had learned.
Then we gave the gifts. The anti-climax. The grave disappointment.
Gradually over the last several years, I have felt increasingly disenchanted with the reception our gifts have received. One friend in particular seems almost offended that we give her a handmade gift. In return one year she gave me an item she had obviously received for free at some sort of employer function. Amazingly, almost none of the recipients thank us. This year only one showed any real gratitude and commented on how difficult it must have been to make her scarf.
I haven’t been making these gifts hoping for gushing gratitude and admiration. In fact, such platitudes would make me very uncomfortable. But it is so disappointing when the receivers are offended or completely indifferent, especially when, like these scarves, I honestly chose to make a gift I thought they would enjoy. After so many years of the reactions we have gotten, I tried to make gifts that I really thought they would like. I chose colors I knew each person loved. I chose styles that matched them. After their reactions, it makes me wonder why I should even bother. (I can write all of this without impunity or concern that these people will see this as digging for compliments because none of my friends read my blog.)
I have been embarking on a transformation of sorts over the last few years. One thing I have come to understand about myself is that I have consistently chosen non-reciprocal relationships, not only love relationships, but friendships too. In the past I have chosen people who don’t want me as much as I want them. This was the dynamic in my family and I repeated it. I’m such a cliche’ and I get it. Interestingly, as I have realized this about myself, I have made different choices, and I’m managing to develop some friendships that are not like this. But it is hard. Finding new friends is not easy. To alleviate this, I’m actively seeking out activities where I might meet other people. I read once that our peak opportunities for making friends are in school and when our children are little. I’m past school. Isabel is still little so I suppose there is still that possibility once she goes to school.
In any case, I want something to be different. It is hugely disappointing to spend hours making a gift for someone only to have it received with absolute indifference. Maybe I need to make friends who also make their gifts, and for the same reason. Really I want something different in more than just this, and I’m getting there. Sometimes I wish it would happen just a little sooner, that’s all.