A Handmade Holiday

The environment is a familiar one. Christmas music is blaring, young couples are walking hand in hand, and ovens are operating at maximum capacity. Everyone is frantically searching for the perfect gift. Go to any store, anywhere in the world, within the week of Christmas day and it will be apparent. People disregard the fact that Christmas is intended to be a season of peace and joy, and they fight one another to get the last discounted ipad on the shelf. But I have learned year after year at Christmas that there is not one gift, anywhere in existence, that can replace the simplicity of something handmade. As the saying goes, money can't buy you love, unless you ask the so-called stars of  The Real Housewives of insert city here on Bravo per say, but I ardently believe this to be true. Sure I succumbed to the pressures of buying beautiful, and thoughtful gifts in the store, but I sought something unique this Christmas as well: a hand made holiday.

I have a love of many things...one of which is scrapbooking. Sneaking about in my Nana's drawers, I recovered loads of photos from their golden years. Their childhoods, my Mama's adolescent years, and even my sister and my own humble beginnings as bright eyed little girls. Antique black and white photos portraying my Nana's wedding day, portraits of my Mimi, and pictures from our beach house down in Forked River from 15 years ago. Regina waddled around in her swimsuit and life vest, while I plotted how to jump into the lagoon. My Papa had to tie me to the boat with a leash like rope, for fear that I would take a running leap to swim with the fishies. It was a beautiful time in our lives, and I looked back fondly on what a fortunate young lady I was to grow up in a loving family. Fortunately, I discovered old photo albums Mommy amassed as well and I had a multitude of picturesque memories to work with. Already well equipped with scrapbooking materials to scrapbook all four walls of my bedroom, I went to the craft store to find a medium for these memories... one for each of my immediate family members. For Mom, a desk calendar, for Regina, a mirror, for Dad, a letter holder, for Papa, a clipboard, and for Nana, my favorite of all, a serving platter. I bought some funky glues and assorted paper mache supplies and went home with my stash.

Early mornings when family was off to work and Regina was asleep, I worked in my little makeshift workspace (aka the kitchen) I labored like a little elf. Making something tangible out of simple polaroids. Photos that might have been thrown away had I not stumbled upon them. With some glitz, a little glue, and lots of artsy additions I made gifts that I am quite proud of. Each of them is functional, as well as personally relevant. Mommy has a small workspace and much need for a unique time piece, while Daddy handles all the bills and boring mail. Regina is a fashionista, Nana loves to entertain, and Papa is always engrossed in some task on his feet and could use a clipboard.

Beyond pragmatism, I think the gifts are simply lovely, because they were made from scratch. In the process, I was able to relive my happiest memories of childhood, and muse about what it must have been like to know my Mimi and grandparents when they were so young. Before ipods as well as facebook and all the other things that preoccupy us these days. Besides the crafting, I baked a few concoctions including coconut cupcakes with cream cheese icing, Granny's traditional "dunk cookies" perfect for a good cup of coffee, and a pumpkin pie. Baking is particularly gratifying because it is a process meant for sharing. Cassie and Christopher came over and we reminisced about awkward high school years, contentment in college, and anxious aspirations for the future. Cassie shared her quick and easy Peppermint Schnapps's Brownie Bites, of which Chris and I ate nearly ten. Yum.

We just finished a splendid spread of fish, fresh capellini, lobster ravioli, and broccoli rabe and are lounging by the fire before Christmas mass. Life is calm, for the moment, and I am with the people I love. All will be well if we continue to have faith in the power of togetherness and the beauty of memories past to sustain us through any trial.

"So for tonight, we pray for, what we know can be...And on this day, we hope for, what we still can't see. It's up to us to be the change, and even though we all can still do more.There's so much to be thankful for."