My mother must’ve kept everything my sister and I ever made for Christmas. Some things were put together in school, but most were done in Sunday School.
Same is true for anything we ever made, regardless of the time of year.
Decades later at a Christmas gathering, if something someone says reminds my mom of a drawing I did in Vacation Bible School in 1967, she leaves the room and moments later returns with a drawing for all to see.
I never understood this until I had children.
The thought that I had a hand in creating another human being was overwhelming enough. But to watch one of my kids create something and then give it to me was just about the best thing ever. It still is.
When kids can’t build or make something they want to give their mom or dad, they save their pennies to buy it for them. In my writing studio, I still proudly display a model ship in a glass case that my youngest son saved to get me when he was about seven. If there’s ever a fire, it’ll be one of the things I grab on my way out the door.
Growing up in Ashdown, Arkansas, my sister and I made many of the decorations for the Christmas tree. Looking back, I suspect our crafts were to make us feel like we were in charge of decorating as much as they were to fill space that otherwise would have had to be filled with ornaments that cost money.
I don’t see kids making Christmas ornaments much these days. That’s a shame. We looked forward to getting a package of construction paper of all different colors, a bottle of Elmer’s Glue, and a small pair of safety scissors to make decorations.
We’d spend hours trying to perfectly cut paper strips that we’d make into interlocking loops that circled the tree my dad had harvested from the woods.
Our Sunday School teachers would provide coloring pages or books of the Nativity Scene and other Biblical images that we would color and then cut out, finally putting a hole in the top and a silver hook to hang them on the tree.
We weren’t the best about coloring inside the lines, but that just seemed to make our mom and grandmother like them even more.
Anytime we came home with something new we’d made for Christmas decorating, we were told it was the prettiest thing they’d ever seen. Even though the last thing we brought them was also the prettiest thing they’d ever seen.
Ironically, it was a Christmas decoration I made for my mom when I was in my 20s that she seems to treasure most. That year, I made Christmas soldiers out of small terra cotta pots.
I was young and still trying to build a career and a life, so money was tight. Someone showed me the idea, which was two different types of soldiers that are reminiscent of The Nutcracker. The design was simple, yet effective.
To make the two soldiers, I bought 10 small pots; some small jars of black, red, and yellow model car paint; black and red spray paint; and one small, white wooden ball.
Picture the men being formed from five pots. Each pot is turned over to sit on the next. The top pot is the hat, the next is the face, then the chest, then the waist, then the feet. After you paint each pot to make a hat, face, etc., you spray all of the pots with lacquer to protect the paint. The white ball goes in the hole in the top hat.
I’ve posted a link to a picture of the soldiers on my website at JohnMoore.net/Blog.
A wooden dowel can be used to hold all of the pots securely in line. However, you don’t need a dowel if you place the pots in a high enough place that the kids can’t get to them. My mom displays hers on the fireplace mantle on either side of the clock.
The thing that still gets me when I visit my mom at Christmas is how she still brags to everyone that I made those for her.
Sure, she’s proud of the drawings I did and the colored looped construction paper rings that decorated Christmas trees of yore, but she’s especially proud of these soldiers.
All of the other things I’ve bought for her over the years, such as toasters, lawn lights, and other items are likely no longer used or not working. But the simple, terra cotta pot soldiers are always waiting in her Christmas boxes to emerge and take their place for holiday duty.
The soldiers were something I made in an afternoon when I was young and money was tight. Proof that for a mom, a gift doesn’t need to cost a lot of money. It just needs to be from the heart of her child.
By John Moore