91: Made with Loving Hands

91: Made with Loving Hands

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: It's Christmas!

Made with Loving Hands

The manner of giving is worth more than the gift.

~Pierre Corneille, Le Menteur

It was going to be our leanest Christmas. We had discussed not giving presents at all, but our children were still young. My husband and I remembered the meager years of our childhoods, and we did not want a Christmas without gift giving for our children. So, we got the family together, and we all agreed, that except for the gifts that Santa would bring, we would exchange only gifts that we had made with our own hands.

A hushed peace settled upon us in the month before Christmas. There was no last minute shopping, dashing into a store before it closed and returning with some meaningless, soon-to-be-forgotten gift. This Christmas would require thought and planning.

The house was quiet for weeks as we each ransacked boxes of craft supplies, materials, and ribbons. Bedroom doors closed early, as our daughters giggled and planned all the wonderful surprises that they had in store for each member of the family. I was able to design and make special Christmas ornaments and tiny photo albums telling the story of each child’s life. I cannot remember the gift that I made for my husband, but I will never forget the gift that he made for me.

That Christmas he became a man of secrets. Louie, a big man with large, capable hands, was an electrician in the Navy. I was simply amazed to see the things that he could make work. His powerful hands could pull cables weighing hundreds of pounds with a strength that would bring another man to his knees. However, I had also felt those loving hands gently stroke my headache away, and I’d witnessed the tenderness in those hands as he held a sick child. So, I was curious to see what those hands would create for me for Christmas.

He took over the back bedroom. Sitting at a child’s desk, working under the light of a cheap study lamp, he engaged in his mysterious enterprise. He would walk into the house right after work carrying brown paper bags held tightly to his chest. Some of the bags were so tiny, that I couldn’t imagine what they contained. I made cookies and cakes and planned the Christmas meal, as I imagined the tantalizing moment when I would unwrap his gift.

As Christmas day neared, I barely saw my husband. I had to insist that he eat something, and even when he did, he was back to work immediately. And no matter how long I stood with my ear to the door, I couldn’t hear a sound!

I had never been so excited. I couldn’t wait. What was he making? I imagined all sorts of electronic equipment, perhaps a flashing light-board that whistled or clanged. Maybe he was building me some wonderful electronic gizmo! I had a lot of fun trying to guess what the surprise would be. I hadn’t a clue.

Christmas day dawned bright and crisp. First came breakfast, and the only things that could be touched before breakfast were the stockings. The girls dove into their stockings, through the nuts and apples, all the way down to the orange that was in the toe. One would think that they had never tasted an orange! They peeled and separated and sucked the juicy fruit, while inhaling a piece of sausage quiche. Breakfast was finished, and we headed for the gifts.

The girls loved every little gift. I had insisted on going last. The girls were so excited, that they wanted me to tear into Louie’s gift, but I waited until every gift was opened and “oohed and aahed” over. Then Louie handed me the large, carefully wrapped box.

“Don’t shake it,” he said, with a mysterious smile.

“Wait until you see it, Momma,” smiled Helen.

The girls knew! They had been a part of the conspiracy! Carefully, I unwrapped the box, struggling with the wrapping. Louie flipped his pocketknife out and quickly took care of the tape.

“Afraid someone might break into it?” I asked, with a grin.

“Well, you never know,” he answered, with a wink.

Finally, I opened the box. Setting it gently on the floor, I heard a tinkle. What was this? I pulled out miles of tissue paper, and closed my eyes as I reached inside. It was smooth, with tiny parts. Jenny reached over, holding the box, so that I could pull out the gift.

“Gently,” she said.

Holding my breath, I pulled it out. Someone pulled an end table close and assisted me in setting my gift down. I opened my eyes, and to my amazement I beheld a lovely porcelain carousel, with tiny horses, a roof, and a music box, beautifully painted, fired, and assembled by my husband. The tears sprung to my eyes. Such delicate beauty, fashioned by big, strong hands.

Louie reached over and lifted the carousel, gently turning the music box key. Lovely tinkling music played, as tears fell from my eyes. It is my most precious Christmas gift, fashioned by loving hands that have taught me that true love is not only sweet, but also surprising.

~Jaye Lewis

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