This time of year is full of hustle and bustle, wrapping paper and bows, and a serious investment in Scotch tape. A cashmere scarf, a lovely new watch, perfume, a new cookbook- these things are all lovely and fun to give and receive. My favorite gifts to give, however, have always been the ones that have come from my heart and often my pen.
Before my sister left home for law school, I remember creating a book for her full of inspiring and funny quotes. I made one for my best friend, too, when she left for college. When my beloved grandfather passed away, I wrote the eulogy. After learning how to write a pantoum at a Long Island Writing Project workshop, I wrote one for my friend for her birthday. I remember her gleefully exclaiming, “You wrote me a tune? Are you going to sing it for me?” I recall stammering, “No, it’s a PANTOUM. I’m not singing it.” Sigh. Some gifts are more well received than others.
Looking back, writing presents have frequently been my go-to gifts. One Valentine’s Day, when my husband and I were dating, I made him an A to Z book of memories of our relationship. Each letter of the alphabet was a memory or a place we’d been. As the maid of honor in my sister’s wedding, I worked for months trying to create the perfect toast. When my mom turned 65, I asked her friends and family members to write her a letter and made a scrapbook of their notes and pictures from her life. I wrote an “I am” poem for my son, Alex, before he was born and I’ve written letters to my children through the years. The process of writing these gifts for the people who matter so much to me is almost like a present to myself as well.
While introducing independent writing projects to my class recently, I thought about what I would like to create for my own project. I love taking pictures of my children and have so many from this past year. Wouldn’t it be special to make a book of pictures from January to December, with a haiku for each month? Wouldn’t it be amazing to pull this book out years from now and have these moments and my written poetic reflections?
The power of heartfelt words to become part of your soul and influence your life cannot be overrated. I still look back from time to time at letters of recommendation or signatures in a yearbook or a note from a former principal- these words have meant so much to me. They have been a soft, warm, cozy blanket to wrap myself in when life has sent a cold chill of despair or disappointment.
We are busy people, getting busier by the day. It is easier and more expedient to shop online and purchase gifts than to create them. I understand and completely relate, yet, I yearn to make those heartfelt gifts, words spun to show my love and appreciation. Not every holiday or occasion will afford the chance to create a writing present for someone who matters to you. A scarf, perfume and cookbooks are very lovely gifts to give. But, it remains: My favorite gifts to give are the ones that have come from my heart and, so often, my pen.