My father’s extended family was not rich, but we were quite well off, so Christmas was a time of fashionable gifts. I really don’t remember any of the many fine gifts, but I do remember the non-posh gifts from my Aunt Grapelle. I smile as I write this because I also have this clear memory of the rest of the family making light of her yearly gifts to me. Even as a young child I was outraged by their attitude and lack of appreciation; how could they think that her gifts were anything less than magical?
My Aunt Grapelle was a seamstress, and not just any seamstress—she was a creative genius, and everyone knew it. She made dresses for balls, weddings, and all things spectacular. I thought she was wonderful and always looked for ways to please her. You would think by the way I speak of her she lived next door and was a vital part of my life; not so, I only saw her a few times each year, and then she was busy visiting with the other adults. But, oh my, every Christmas I knew what my gift would be from her. Each year she packed a large box of bits and pieces of silky and gauzy material that she had left over from her many sewing projects. Ribbons and bows, snaps and buttons, and occasionally a piece of material large enough to make a baby-doll a dress—it all made Auntie’s gift thrilling. And to make it extra special, she always included needle and thread, scissors, pictures of ideas, and any other thing I might need to make my visit a time of creative wonder. Sometimes she would slip away from the adults to find me sorting through the box, and she would give me simple instructions on how to make this or that. My whole life of creativity, writing, art, homeschooling, and child training reflects those wonderful boxes of opportunity.