The gift giving season of Christmas and other holidays has started and everyone is shopping for the perfect gift and waiting to hopefully receive their perfect gift in return. One of my fondest memories of childhood occurred when I was ready to start school for the first time, and my grandmother made something very special for me. It was not expensive looking by today’s standards, but for a young child starting kindergarten, it was awesome.
A simple but beautiful white book bag hand sewn with my name embroidered in red, “Jeannie.” My grandmother always called me by my middle name, but she pronounce it Gina. If only my grandmother knew she had not only provided a great gift, but she also provided a blessing. I still remember her goodness and these wonderful treasures of her being my grandmother and of her gift.
Her present to me was so inspirational it sparked a life long interest in learning. When I set eyes on my first school bag my excitement about attending school spiraled even further. I wondered about what kind of books the teacher would give out so that I could put them into this bag. I was holding the most expensive bag in the world. I could not wait to get some paper and writing instruments because these items were necessary tools which every student must have, and I liked writing and drawing instruments. This was to prove prolific because I am an artist and a writer. I knew I wanted to do this since I was four years old.
Sometimes I would sit at my grandparent‘s pristine dining room table with white laced table-cloth and practice drawing lines and making doodles. I remember my grandparents watching me. When my grandfather would lay his pencil down, I would take it and start drawing with it, but when he realized he no longer had it, he went looking for it. I was the one who took it, and I did not always want to give it back. When my other relatives explained to me that my grandfather really needed his very small pencil, I kind of understood. My grandmother, uncle, or aunt would replace his pencil with another pencil, and I was appreciative.
I had this urgency to craft, draw or practice writing. My grandfather learned to guard his small yellow pencil with pink eraser, and he remembered not to leave it on the table and walk away. It fit perfectly into his shirt pocket. I finally got the message that no one should take his pencil. It was only later on that I learn to appreciate why he treasured this pencil. He was not being selfish.
Whatever this book bag contained and anything in it became even more special. It was a special present because my grandmother made it with love. Her excitement for my education and her enthusiastic nature inspired me to look forward to a great learning experience. My mother was also happy and proud of me.
Holding it in my hand, I examined it most thoroughly. It was white with red embroidery. Simple hand stitching, and the most wonderful thing was I could see my name on it. I thought how smart my grandmother was because of her talent for sewing. Later on I acquired this skill and watch both my grandmother and mother designed and mend clothing. My mother was a professional seamstress.
When you look at school bags today, they come in all sorts of designs made of heavy plastic or canvas,. They are so non-personal in contrast to my school bag made with love. You can’t buy love. Love is not plastic. Over the years I tried to hold on to this bag for as long as I could, but eventually it moved on with grace. I may no longer have the school bag, but its meaning and its message are in my heart forever.
It takes a special person to give you something that no one else can give you. If you accept it with a child like attitude and a humble spirit you will see its true value. Adults rarely see value in inexpensive items, because they look at monetary value. They only buy presents for people they know will buy them a present. Sometimes expensive gifts are okay, but don’t forget to understand the real value of the gift and why it is being given. Learn to appreciate the true value of small things, because it is the thought behind the gift that really counts.
I am thankful for my grandmother’s wonderful hand-made gift which set me on my path to education. She is with God, but her hand sewn bag contained a gift of wisdom for me. Remember when you celebrate the holidays to bless the giver, be appreciative of small things, and be thankful for every gift even if it has little value.