A few years ago, my family decided to have a “handmade” Christmas, instead of store-bought gifts. I was underemployed at the time and finances were very tight. Even handmade gifts can get expensive when you have 13 people on your list. So I had to come up with a very inexpensive idea, but I wanted it to be something special. Whenever I give a gift, I do my best to give something that is symbolic of the connection between me and the recipient. I try to find something we have in common. But like all families, mine is made up of a wide range of personalities and interests. Given time constraints, I needed to make one type of thing, but what one thing could I do that would celebrate my unique connection with each of these individuals?
After a fair amount of agonizing contemplation, I finally settled it. I would write each member of my family a short poem. I’ve been writing poetry on and off since I first learned what it was in elementary school, where a poem was writing a word down the page, using each letter as the first letter of a line. I remember this because I still have them. My verse had matured over the years, and I thought that I could manage a passable poem for each member of the family. No problem, right? Yeah, right.
I was almost immediately gripped by writer’s block. I found a clean notebook and created one page for each member of my family. I filled it up with “research.” I looked up the meanings of their first and middle names and played with them to come up with a phrase that fit. I made notes on what each of them meant to me, and the first words that come to mind when I think of them. I doodled. I wrote their names over and over again.
Slowly, painstakingly, the words finally began to fall into place. I got about halfway through the family and then got hopelessly stuck. I even wrote a (bad) poem about being stuck! I don’t know what finally broke the block, but I managed to get unstuck in time to write the remaining poems, clean them up, and make them into laminated bookmarks done in the subject’s favorite colors. I wrapped them in packages of all shapes and sizes, in an attempt to disguise the fact that everyone was getting the same thing.
Once they were finished, I couldn’t wait until our family Christmas gathering. I was excited for each person to receive their poem, but also beyond nervous at exposing so much of myself. That Christmas now stands as one of my favorites. There were tears and laughter as each person read their poem. I had never put so much time and effort into Christmas presents before, nor have I since. The result was worth every minute!
I know I am blessed with a wonderful family. Though we are spread across the state and country, we love and support one another. We enjoy spending time together whenever we can. I am well aware of just how rare it is for a family our size to continue to get along so well, and I would be lost without each and every one of them.
Over the next weeks/months, I will be sharing the poems I wrote that year. I’m not sure how often I’ll post them. I’ll post the first sometime this weekend, and the rest will depend on if I come up with other blog topics to write about. Enjoy!