Crafting Excuses

5 10 2008

Despite my fondness for obstructing federal investigations, and berating my underlings for improperly stored tomatoes, I am no Martha Stewart. And despite assorted crunchy granola and patchouli-scented evidence to the contrary, I am not a hippie. But I sure do love me a good arts n’ craftin’. And never is that more apparent than when I have to give somebody a present. I habitually undertake handmade presents for people because it feels good to put my heart, soul and creativity into something that another person will enjoy and cherish as a reminder of me for years to come. And, despite my fondness for DIY haircuts, and the wallet-full-of-credit-cards evidence that sometimes deludes us into thinking the contrary, we are still pretty broke. So, I make stuff for people. And I’ve passed this along to the kids as a viable way of gift-giving.

This weekend, Neener and Roo were invited to their first, and hopefully not their last, birthday party of the year. The party of Neener’s latest Best Friend, Jonothan. The only thing I know for sure about Jonathan, other than the fact that he cried every single day of school for the first three weeks, is that he is obsessed with Lightning McQueen from the movie Cars. Big Time. So, rather than go out and buy him a bunch of over-priced Cars junk that he probably already has, the girls and I elected to make something special for Jonathon. The chosen project? A hand painted and decorated Lightning McQueen-inspired wooden letter “J.” We bought the wooden letter at Sprawlmart, along with a couple of other little gifts to go along with it so we didn’t look like complete nut jobs, and then I was left to figure out how the hell I was going to make a letter J look like a cartoon car. Three coats of red paint, two glue-gunned googly eyes, one lightening bolt, and one yellow jewel hubcapped tire later, et voila! A red googly-eyed letter J with a lightening bolt and one bedazzled tire that would almost certainly make us look like total nut jobs. And we didn’t stop there. Nooooo. We had to take it to the next level of crazy by making our own wrapping paper, bow and cards. Not because of any particular impetus to be creative, but because we’re pretty broke and it seems stupid to waste money on stuff that’s going to go completely unnoticed as it gets torn to bits and tossed in the trash anyway. And because it was two hours before the party when I realized that we didn’t have any any wrapping paper, bows or cards. Yes, we are broke, and disorganized around here. What we did have was a roll of paper for the easel, a set of blo-pens, some construction paper, funky bladed scissors, a pompom and some time to kill. Et Voila. Handcrafted wrapping paper and bow, and cards made by a family of nut-jobs.

And off to the party we went. There was the usual games, pizza, ice cream, and cake. Then came time to open the presents. Store-bought gift bag after store-bought gift bag of store-bought Lightning McQueen paraphernalia for the birthday boy. And then, Jonothan got to the gift from Neener and Roo. He shredded through the artisan wrapping paper, chucked aside the one-of-kind bow, and didn’t even notice the highly collectible Neener Original card, festooned with x’s and o’s. He just looked at the big red J. Stunned silence gripped the room.

Until Neener volunteered, “It’s a letter J. For Jonothan. Painted in the style of Lightening McQueen.”

More stunned silence. Until another kid said what was clearly on everybody’s mind.

“Wow…that’s kinda weird.”

A moment of awkward tension . Until my King of awkward tension breaking, Mr. Blister chimed in. “Yep, it sure is! But look! A Lightning McQueen colouring book, and a picture frame decorating kit from Neener and Roo too! Cool, eh Jonothan!”

Yes, I may be a nut-job, but I’m not stupid enough to not back up the wacky homemade gift with some socially acceptable commercial fare.

The lesson here is that just because you put your heart and soul into making a gift for someone does not mean that they will see that or appreciate it. Especially if they are five. But, I’ve had similar reactions from adults who’ve been on the receiving end of my artistic endeavours too. Except they usually aren’t honest enough use the word “weird” like the big mouthed kid at the party. Adults have clever euphemisms for the word weird. Like nice or interesting or creative. But I don’t expect people, especially a kid like Jonothan, to appreciate these crafty presents. At least, not right away. But years from now, long after the store-bought Lightning McQueen crap has been lost or smashed or stolen by big-mouthed little friends, I bet Jonothan will still have the big red Lightning McQueen inspired J that Neener and Roo gave him for his fifth birthday. Probably because it was too weird and too wacky to be lost, smashed or stolen. He might look at it and remember his fifth birthday party, and the days when Neener was his Best Friend. Or he might just look at it and think about what a crazy Martha Stewart hippy nut-job Neener’s mother must have been to try and make a wooden letter J look like a googly-eyed cartoon car. Either way is fine by me.




3 responses

5 10 2008

I would love a big J or a big N anytime.

5 10 2008

Yeah, I have my days when I’d love a big J too. It’d make my crafts a helluva lot wackier, lemme tell ya.

6 10 2008

Some of the best birthday presents my kids ever got were homemade.Two things that stick in my mind were a small cardbourd box made into a Harry Pottrer magical wizard trunk.Which was in my daughters room until it fell apart from use.Out lasted many of her other gifts and she cherised it much more.The second gift was a homemade pillow(harry potter of course)with name written on it. She got at her 8th? birthday.She still has it today,ragged and worn,but I would be killed if I ever even suggested to throw it out.So yes homemade means more and last longer but I think it is all in the child or adult that receives the gift.

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