Trinkets, Gifts and Gratitude 

Three hours into my decoupage project: counter top covered in magazines and tiny scraps of paper. I am annoyed at the glue stuck to my hands, the way the finish is imperfect and still tacky as I test it, leaving the print of my index finger over the design of the collage. I find myself wishing that I’d ordered ornaments before the holiday season was in full swing, or that I was a factory rather than an ordinary lady sitting at her kitchen counter because factories can produce ornaments neatly and efficiently and I, in this particular craft supplies covered moment, am neither neat nor efficient. 

Matúš declares, “You DO love Christmas, Helen!” I sigh an exasperated sigh. 

I, maintaining moderate grinchyness, tell Matúš that I like the first hour of Christmas preparations. In the first hour I’m excited, my materials are out before me like pieces at the beginning of a game and there’s endless possibilities to what creations might be made. 

I don’t make gifts because I love the process of making, though I do love that first hour. 

I had looked for weeks for 15 identical ornaments that would be a keepsake for our host families of this Christmas with their students. The ornaments should be relevant to their experience in some way, flat (to be paired and mailed with Christmas cards), and fun or attractive. Many times I found 1 or 2, but not 15. 

So I found myself creating individual, inefficient and imperfect, ornaments for my 13 other host families. 

What I want Matúš and my children to learn (perhaps they already know) is that gift giving can be the primary way in which some people experience appreciation. Author Gary Chapman’s work on the “love languages” speaks to the different ways people experience being appreciated. While the buying or making of gifts might only be fun to me for the first magical hour, I don’t do it for myself. I do it because I hope, in spite of finger prints and rough edges, it will communicate to the families and students that they are thought of and appreciated. 

I am truly thankful for both our host families and our exchange students. I think it’s a uniquely important thing, to accept and connect with those who are culturally different and I am thankful to them for doing this. 

I am a bit of a grinchy/scroogey type. I hope that if our exchange students don’t know those references that they’ll learn them. But! The narrative of our dear Scrooge is that he’s redeemable. Despite his “bah humbug,” love triumphs. 

I am grateful for the reminder that Christmas provides to create an expression of gratitude and give a little gift that says “I thought of you.” 

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