Now that we’re looking at the holidays in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to write about the theme and contents of this year’s family Christmas packages*. This year’s theme was somewhat nonlinear, as we had a couple different themes and unifying elements.
As I recall, our original plan was to make the packages Elena-centric; every item would be a toy or some other thing that she liked to play with. That became an organizing principle, but it wasn’t enough by itself. As in past years, we wanted the items to tell the story of what happened to us during the year, so that came into play as well.
I eventually struck on a crazy idea for an item that could bring everything else together: a handcrafted wooden puzzle. Not only has Elena been a big fan of puzzles for the past several months, but the pieces would showcase some of the most meaningful events of the year, and each piece would tie in to one or two of the other gifts in the package.
To make the puzzle, I needed better tools than I own–I was grateful to borrow my father’s scroll saw. Without it, I would have been lost in frustration. Even with it, the work was almost overwhelming, but I was encouraged by the progress and the quality of work. Jenny doubted the idea at first, but when she saw that I had the will to make it happen, she got involved and did an equal share. In the end, we were proud of the results.
Clockwise from top left, the puzzle pieces are:
- Birthday cake from Elena’s first birthday party. We wanted to give cake pops with each of the packages, but somehow they only went out with the ones that we mailed, not with those that we hand-delivered. Those who didn’t receive cake pops have two consolations: we’ve probably already shared cake pops with them, and they can ask us to make a fresh batch for the next time we see them.
- Our family has a good time whenever we’re all together. Though this photo isn’t supposed to recall any specific event, it was taken on the Fourth of July. The present that went along with this piece was a framed family photo.
- The Capitol building is close to our new home on the east coast. In perhaps the weakest connection between puzzle piece and gift item, we included dolphin trinkets and fish finger puppets, recalling our trip to the National Aquarium.
- Elena in jewelry was accompanied by candy necklaces. She certainly has a strong sense of style, recently branching out into bracelets. She got glow stick bracelets in her Christmas stocking. The other day Jenny started one going and took her in the dark bathroom so Elena could get the full effect. When I arrived home in the evening, the first thing she wanted to do was put it on and take me in the bathroom so I could see how cool it was.
- Jewel with stuffed animals didn’t have a present to go along with it, but it was such a fun picture I wanted to include it. Maybe we should have included a stuffed animal. In any case, it reminds us of the time we spent living with my parents.
- The University of Texas tower commemorates the place where we lived most of the year, as well as the completion of my dissertation. For the first part, we sent cowgirl rubber duckies. For the second, I formatted my dissertation for a paperback printing on Lulu so everyone could have a copy. I gave it a burnt orange cover so it would stand out on bookshelves.
Every year there comes a time when it looks like the Christmas packages are going to take over, and we decide to narrow our scope for the following year, but so far that hasn’t happened. I don’t think next year will see a reduction in our efforts–we already have a good theme and some concrete projects. Even better, we should be able to work on the projects a little at a time over the course of the year, and not force it all into a hectic November and December. In the meantime, if you’re interested in making a custom puzzle yourself or would like to special order one from me, let me know.