My daughter was born on New Year’s Eve. We attribute her outsized love of Christmas to her so narrowly missing it that first year. She is definitely her grandmother’s girl—she inherited her talent for and love of Christmas crafts. She and I continue the tradition of holiday ornament-making that Mama started with me. Like her grandmother, D prefers to use found objects whenever possible. (Our family is historically green in the sense that we’d rather use what’s on hand, even if it means turning the house upside-down, instead of going to the store to get the exact right thing. We like the challenge of improvisation.) My daughter has always been a scavenger, a picker-upper of little things and bits of things that she sets aside for an unknown future use. She returned each day from Kindergarten with a different unidentifiable something she had found in the hallway or under a desk. Until recently she collected broken pencil tips. I give thanks everyday that she has outgrown the phase in which she pronounced every gray, forgettable rock along the road a priceless treasure: This is pretty! And so is this! And this tiny one is very beautiful! After even a short walk, our pockets were weighed down with gravel. I quietly returned them to the road later.
A more serendipitous find occurred one day after a pine tree in the neighborhood fell victim to a summer storm. We brought back many branches bearing perfect little pinecones. Even in the July heat, their need to be recycled into some kind of fat-bodied holiday creature called out urgently to both of us. Once home, we went to the craft closet to see what other materials were available. (It’s telling that in our old house, where closets are few, we have one devoted almost entirely to crafts.) We gathered popsicle sticks, toothpicks, large wooden beads, pipe cleaners (chenille stems in crafters’ lingo), plenty of small colored beads, and bags full of acorn caps (of course we collect these—I’m a real sucker for a cute acorn cap!)
D was still in preschool when we made our pinecone people, but she already had a good sense of design. She quickly pushed for toothpick arms and legs. I couldn’t see it—the contrast between the rotund pinecone body and the skinny toothpick seemed too great. But she persisted (she’s stubborn, as well as crafty), and so I agreed to give it a try. Thanks to the magic of the hot glue gun, it was possible to affix the toothpicks down in the depths of each pinecone. And D’s idea was a good one. The resulting figures are particularly active and expressive. They sit, stand, or jump to attention. Wooden bead heads, jaunty acorn caps, and smaller colored beads for hands and feet completed our woodland people. We drew facial features with a Sharpie. Some of these piney creatures come out in early fall to mix it up with pumpkins, gourds and leaves. Others, outfitted in red felt capes and scarves, don’t appear until December.
I love the charming simplicity of our pinecone folk. They remind me that a little magic may be born of the most ordinary circumstances and materials, if we pause and open our hearts to the possibility. Such opportunities between parent and child become increasingly rare as our children mature. My advice as the mother of an almost-teen: recognize and treasure those moments!