Handmade Christmas Tradition

Christmas 2016

Hello everyone! I hope everyone has been easing comfortably into the holiday season, whatever it is you celebrate. I have been shuffling through it, stiff and achy from the fibro and foggy and distantly uneasy from the depression. But overall I’ve been okay. Tired, but good.

So what is this post, anyway? Well, I came home late one evening last week to see that my mother had begun decorating the house for christmas. It’s her favorite holiday. I smiled to myself and scanned the items she had laid out to construct her nativity scene and the little winter towns and decorate the tree and various surfaces around the house.

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There were so many unique items she had collected over the decades. Many of them were handmade by all the children that had passed through her hands over the years as she babysat them. Many were from her younger siblings too, another generation that went through my mother’s care. Special items gifted to her by her mother, specially sent from Panama for my mother’s home.

And the realization dawned on me and amazed me that I was looking at a collection of special memories from four generations of my family.

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Grandma’s Hands

My grandmother, my mother’s mother, lives in Panama. I call her Abuela Lila (grandma Lila). She is a deceptively quiet and mischievous woman; that’s where mom get’s her mischief from. But she also learned from Abuela Lila the patience and appreciation for handcrafted work. And one of the best times to see these items is around the holidays.

Grandma’s house is full of wonderful handicrafts from everyone in the family, spanning back generations. Something that mom grew up around and contributed to. So it is no surprise, really, that mom has her own collection going in her own home too.

One of her favorite items, and mine, is this table cloth that Abuela Lila hand sewed and hand embroidered for mom, sending it from Panama as a gift. I love that even in her late eighties, grandma can often be found working on some kind of handmade gift for one of her remaining 8 children (2 have passed away), 41 of her grandchildren, dozens of great grandchildren, or her few great, great grandchildren. They are highly treasured gifts, just like this hand embroideried poinsettias table cloth. (Mom made the chair covers and placemats just this year to go with the gift.)

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Mom And Her Siblings

It would take too long to show you everything that mom has in her christmas collection that were made by her siblings. Most of the handicrafts are actually in Panama at Abuela Lila’s house anyway. So I’ll show you just a few of mom’s and one of her sisters’ work.

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My grandparents were very busy parents. They had 2 large farmlands that had livestock and grew all kinds of vegetation including coffee, corn, and various tropical fruits, had a plot of land in the main town where they raised their 10 children, and ran several businesses, including a mechanic shop, a gas station, a small convenience store, and a few side businesses. As the fifth eldest sibling of a busy family, my mother helped take care of the younger siblings, including my aunt Elena.

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My aunt Elena is a creative and hard working person. She works fast and has an amazing range of ideas she taps into. And when she and mom get together to create, they make cute and wonderful things.

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Children And Nieces And Nephews. Oh my! (Sorry, couldn’t help it)

As my mother grew older, she found that she had a knack for maternal care. You know the type. The kind that are moms to everyone: to their children (of course), to other people’s children, to other adults, even those older than they are. The kind of person who is a natural caregiver.

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And with that skillset, my mother natually fell into CNA and childcare work. Every cousin I have here in the United States has been cared for by my mother ranging anywhere from a few occasions of babysitting to many years of childcare.

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Most of us in this generation have contributed at least a few items to mom’s growing christmas collection. I still remember when mom sat down my cousins Tony and Leo and had them work on crafts. She’s kept them and uses them every year in her christmas decorating. I remember us making a huge mess with the hot glue. Heheheh!

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My cousins Kimtsy, Keylee, and Frediz have also added to the collection. Kimtsy made several felt ornaments. Keylee learned a little woodworking and made mom the snowman napkin holder. And their little brother Frediz is learning the basics of miniature modeling and electronics from my husband Craig this year, so he helped put together the trainset and station under the christmas tree.

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I was surprised to see the train I made in shop class in high school still in one piece. That train has been a toy for every kid in our family in the last 16 years!

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My husband Craig has also added a few things for mom. He helped her make some houses for the nativity town using foam pieces painted to look like clay brick and mud homes. And one year, although he didn’t make it himself, he bought mom an adorable handmade wooden tree decoration with little custom pieces on it.

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The Next Generation

For the last almost 18 years my mother has specifically dedicated herself to the care of the youngest generation, the children of my cousins (and occassionally my friends, because they count as family too). They are few in number, at least those that live here in the States are, but mom loves having them to fill her days with curiosity and humor.

Three of them, sisters, have been cared for by mom each in turn soon after they were born up until they were ready for full time schooling.

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Arianna, the eldest, was a precocious child that loved the outdoors, reading, and chasing mom around with bugs and lizards from mom’s garden. As mom does with every child that passes through her care, she taught Arianna various art and craft skills, which a three-year-old Arianna applied liberally to everything. She particularly got a kick out of painting pine cones that would be placed in mom’s nativity and winter town that year and every year since.

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The next sister is Carina, a quiet and intelligent kid that loved reading, imaginative pretend games, and dancing ballet around mom’s living room. She had a passion for painting all kinds of things when she was very little and has left mom with several painted items for the christmas collection.

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The youngest sister, just three years old now, Leilani is an endlessly curious and ingenious child. She has given the newest contributions to the christmas decorations. She eagerly picked out a few pine cones recently and took to her sisters’ tradition of painting for mom. Her favorite part was adding the glitter. She also made her own version of a snowman (that ball with lots of colored puffs on it). I don’t argue about it; that is totally a snowman.

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Who’s Next?

I was ready to say that there may not be a new item for the collection for a few years, but it may be less than that. With the newest addition to the family through my cousin Kimtsy, little Elias will likely be ready to slather paint on something before next christmas. And I know mom will be happy to hang it on her tree.

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Share your thoughts with me below! You can also find me on the Family Craft Studio facebook, instagram, tumblr, and pinterest pages. Happy crafting!

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