... the handmade holiday season, that is.
I was actually going to buckle this year and buy things instead, so we loaded the family into the car and headed out to the mall yesterday evening. It was quite an eerie experience. There was no one there. At all. We saw one family taking pictures of their kid next to one of the numerous Christmas trees decking the empty halls, and another lone little girl cajoling her mom into letting her go talk to Santa in his huge cage-like enclosure. The only highlight was a brand new board games store, which also had some Lara-approved animatronic stuffed animals in the front display. The teenager working there was so bored he actually came over and turned them all on for her. Otherwise, our trip turned out to be just be a nice walk indoors. Lara ran with delight from one plastic reindeer to the next without the usual danger of colliding with adults not monitoring below-knee activity. We wandered after her, slowly more and more shocked at the emptiness, which is probably the first real sign I've seen of the economic disaster.
And of course I'd rather give people things made by hand than mass-produced ones.* I'm not really a complete corporate snob - just bought Lara another bunch of sleepies from The Children's Place, and a pair of winter boots from Target. But gifts seem different somehow than necessary objects. We are expected to have thought them through, to have taken time to wonder about the taste and needs of the recipient, to have factored in the complexities of our relationship with that person and the unspoken meanings a gift may carry. It's really hard. There are people in my life whom I love dearly, and to whom I am incredibly close, who have yet to ever buy me something that I actually like. I am sure there are people in my life for whom I am that horrible gift giver. But at least a handmade present, by virtue of the time and creative energy it embodies, is a symbol of some of that necessary gift-giving care and attentiveness.
This Hanukkah, someone is getting a set of the wine charms (or I guess napkin rings) that I like to make:
In case the picture makes it hard to tell, they are basically just short beaded lariats meant to wrap around the stem of a wine glass or a rolled up napkin, with the large bead on the end threaded through the lariat loop. More doodads to come.
*I think books count as handmade. Or at least they do in my gift world.