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There are certain things in our lives that you are never too old to enjoy. Traditions, what ever they may be, is one of those. I loved the traditions of home. To me, childhood traditions define home. Time spent with loved ones on Christmas. Bar-B-Que get togethers for birthdays. Coloring Easter eggs as a family. Traditions made memories.
I was a young mother. I took my new family and ventured to our very first apartment at just 18 years old. We had no money. When I say we had no money what I mean is Randy’s parents helped us, my parents helped us, and my grandparents helped us and we still could not pay all the bills. We were poor.
After we moved out, we had no money to do those things. Traditions looked like they might be a thing of the past. At least for a while. We couldn’t really buy Christmas gifts either. We couldn’t host Bar-B-Que dinners for birthdays. Heck, we were lucky to buy groceries for ourselves. So, we created our own traditions. One of those traditions was making Christmas gifts with my kids.
No one in our family wanted us to buy them gifts and they certainly didn’t need a gift. They could buy what they wanted. Christmas really isn’t about the gift anyway, right? Wrong. It is about the gift. It’s all about the gift. There is the obvious gift of Jesus, of course. The reason for the season. There is even more than that.
When I get a gift, especially unexpected gifts, it lights me up. It makes me shine from the inside out. It shows me someone cares about me enough to put time, thought, and money into a gift to make me happy. It works, every time. A gift isn’t only about the person who receives it.
The person who gives that gift lights up too, from the inside out. There is an awesome feeling that comes with knowing someone else feels good because of something so simple. Something so simple that you did.
Our families were the only reason we were able to make our new little family work. They deserved a lot more than we could give. I had to give something though. I had to let them know we appreciated everything.
I certainly wanted Kayla to feel that special feeling of watching someone light up when they get a gift. I also recognized every moment is a teaching moment. It was one of the first times that message actually resonated with me. If we spend our whole lives just taking, how does a baby learn to give? I wanted Kayla to learn how to give. Give even when it is hard. Give even when you don’t have much to give. Give something.
A tradition was born from that moment. I bought a $20 soap making kit with a couple of extra fragrance oils and additives, a jar of applesauce, a container of cinnamon, a package of cheap plastic cookie cutters, and 2 rolls of thin ribbon (red and green). Kayla and I made cinnamon applesauce ornaments that year. When I say we, I mean mostly me. She was not quite 2 years old; she did what she could. When she was asleep, I made little soaps. We wrapped our gifts and handed them out at Christmas.
They were not expensive gifts, or anything special at all for that matter, but they were from us. It took a little thought, a little money, and a little time, but those gifts made a big impression. No one expected anything. They enjoyed those gifts. Kayla enjoyed giving them.
A year changed a lot of things. Randy graduated from college and landed a nice job. Money was starting to flow. We also had another baby. We made gifts again that year. Kayla loved it and could help more than the year before. Again, those gifts were appreciated.
A tradition had been created. Even after Randy started making enough money to buy what we wanted, we still made our gifts. Each year it got harder to get the gifts done. The kids were growing up and life was moving faster than we could keep up with. I tried to quit making those gifts. It was too much to get done. Kayla insisted we continue. In fact, she was insulted that I even considered such a ridiculous idea.
That tradition started out of necessity, yet continues today. It has morphed over the years, but it is still going strong. Every year my kids all gather around our large square table to paint ornaments, shape clay, bake cookies, and form chocolates to give out as presents. We also give to needy families every year. We try to buy gifts for one whole family, or we give small things to several families. These are traditions that my kids probably will take with them to make their own houses feel like home.
It’s those moments that bring families together. It’s those traditions that live on long after we are gone.