Holiday Gifts and Traditions

art, Creativity, Family, Hanukkah, Imagination, inspiration, knitting, purpose, Thanksgiving, Travel


In my family, we didn’t break out the seasonal decorations or fashions until Thanksgiving Day. My mother put her knitting hobby to good use one year and made Christmas sweaters for all of us. She practiced on mine, so I got the baggy sleeves and an oversized middle. At least she got her stitch gauge down pat on my “ugly sweater.”

I wore it every Thanksgiving, while she still lived, just for her, for without my mother I wouldn’t be the person I am today. If there were a sweater made for her, it would be this one I found at my local Wally World: “Gonna Lay Under The Tree To Remind My Family I Am A Gift.”

I Am A Gift

We all have holiday traditions, whether these belong to Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, or Christmas. These bind us together, as a family and as a community. This year I decided to buy my holiday stamps with Kwanzaa illustrations on them. I admit, my cataracts are bad enough now I thought I was looking at a black Angel with lighted candles. I wondered why the postal clerk was questioning my choice. Why can’t I have Kwanzaa stamps? Maybe I need to go back in and buy the blue and silver stamps also.

Kwanzaa Forever Stamp

This might be a year to make some new traditions, especially if during the past few years some of us have lost someone near and dear to us. Also, the economy has had a big impact, so focusing on togetherness rather than on materialism is a good choice. In the Great Depression, my dad asked only for a book for himself and his brother, and a fresh orange, if possible.

My mother, crafty lady that she was, made me this cross stitch one year for my birthday. All of us are gifted, even if not all of us have the same gifts or in the same amount. What we do with our gifts is the more important matter. A very gifted person who wastes their gift will benefit the world less than an average gifted person who works hard and has good people skills. Sometimes these are called under achievers and over achievers. As a former teacher, I don’t believe in the concept of “over achieving.” I do believe most of us underperform because we are afraid to fail.

Menorah

Failing is how we discover what doesn’t work. Unless we’re playing with dynamite, failure won’t kill us. In sales, every time someone says NO to a presentation, the salesperson is another step closer to a YES. We think we’re too young, too old, or too something else to do what we really want to do in life. Sometimes the people around us tell us we can’t do the greater things we dream about. That was not my mother, or my dad. Daddy might have had reservations, but mother always said, “Honey, you should go for it.”

I drove alone to California last month without an advance plan for where I’d spend each night. I made reservations around lunchtime when I knew how far I’d journey that day. I have all the apps, just like the young people. I hiked in national parks, saw volcanoes, got caught in a snow storm, and paid through the nose for gasoline in the Nevada desert. I saw sea otters in the Pacific Ocean, hugged my grand kids, and learned I can do this. Yes, I wanted to go now, for driving nearly 7,000 miles is hard on the body. Full disclosure: I took a week to recuperate! Or maybe it was getting a month’s worth laundry done which finally did me in. I was glad to do it, and especially glad I didn’t let anyone talk me out of it.

The Gift

I hope you choose to be a gift to others. If you don’t have a parent who encourages you to be more than others think you are, I offer my mother as a gift to you. I can share her with the world, for I keep sharing her wisdom here and there. Whatever you choose, l hope you choose to be a gift that gives to others.

Joy and peace,

Cornelia

The Last Tower

9/1/11, Family, Fear, generosity, Health, home, knitting, quilting, Strength, Work

Today is the first day of September: my how time flies when you’re having fun! Twelve years have passed since Mom died, and nearly fifty since she made me that cheerful zigzag afghan to take off to my freshman year in college. That flag pillow was our last project together. “I want to make everyone patriotic pillows for Christmas,” she said the year after the twin towers came down. I didn’t know at the time that the last tower in our family was going to fall.

When my Mother said “I want to make,” she really meant “and you must help me do this, of course.”
Patchwork means that many small pieces are sewed together to make a larger whole. The secret to a good outcome is to cut your shapes all true to the pattern: same size, angles, lengths, widths, and heights. If your stripes are all rectangles, when they are sewn together they will make a larger rectangle. If however, you have cut trapezoidal shapes, your finished product doesn’t look like an American flag.

“What’s taking so long?” She says to me, “You ought to have several sewn up by now.” Yes, Mother, I explain, but I’m having to select strips for size, flip them so the big end is next to a little end, adjust the seam sizes along the run, and then sew. You DO want this to be a rectangle when we are done?

I won’t even begin to tell you the discussion we had on how much fabric to purchase. Mom always wanted to purchase just enough, whereas I have Dad’s cautious streak and say, What if we mess up a portion or we decide to make a pillow for someone else? They may not have this fabric in stock again. She was a child of the Great Depression, and not wasting anything was a lesson learned in hard times. We never finished the pillows that year, for she died of pancreatic cancer before that September had run its course.

When I need a bit of comforting after a hard day, I can wrap up in this old hand knit afghan and sit on my couch with a soothing cup of tea and feel the presence of my Mom and Dad. I can see her knitting this afghan while sitting in the den at night watching television with Daddy. They had matching chairs with a table and lamp between them. They would talk about their day, talk about the world, talk about us kids, and talk about their hopes and dreams for us and for themselves.

I have tried replacing this screaming yellow, orange, gold and brown memory from the 60’s with a more decorative or color coordinated throw, but all I do is waste money: these new ones may look better, but they don’t comfort or warm me. Perhaps the accumulated memories of this ancient afghan have their own energy, their own power source, or their own spiritual connection to the last tower of my family. It has become a holy place where I can seek solace and peace, communion with the saints, and the presence of the God who creates all things and brings the off kilter into harmony with the whole.

For me, God doesn’t dwell only in a “high and holy place,” but “also with those who are contrite and humble in spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite” (Isaiah 57:15).

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