humpbacked trunk

I did it again—created Christmas gifts from the old things in my closet and Mother’s hump-backed trunk. I didn’t just haul out the old things and gift wrap them, but I turned them into tree ornaments accompanied with a few anecdotes of family history.

A few days before this past Christmas, my daughter asked if I still had any old dish towels made from feed sacks. The dish towels fascinated the two girls in her family. I had a few, so each of my granddaughters and granddaughters-in-law received one that I’d embroidered for my hope chest many years ago. The girls loved their dish towels. I included a note telling how we used feed sacks not only for dish towels but also for clothing (yes, I wore feed sack clothes, including unmentionables, when I was a teen).

Another gift came from my closet. My aging blue high school sweater, which I earned by lettering in speech and debate, has hung in the closet for more than sixty years. My children and grandchildren had no idea what a shy young girl I was and how I trembled so badly just giving oral book reports in English class. Afraid I wouldn’t make it through high school, I enrolled in speech and debate in an attempt to overcome the stage fright. I succeeded and earned the sweater, but after I’m gone, it would be worthless to my kids. The time had come to turn it into heirloom ornaments for them.


I decided on a circle for the design and made a paper pattern to determine if I could get enough ornaments for everyone in the family (including at least one for myself). Then I attacked the heavy fabric with my rotary cutter—and no, I didn’t cry as I made the first cut. After I had a stack of the blue knit circles, I looked in the trunk for something to add. After all, a faded blue knit circle isn’t an ornament by itself. My husband’s sister had crocheted a white tablecloth for our wedding gift over sixty years ago. Now worn out, the little crocheted medallions were the perfect centerpieces. I backed the circle with pieces from an old quilt and added Christmas ribbons. Next came the story of how I wanted that sweater so badly, but my parents didn’t have the $15 to buy it. When the day came to order sweaters, I ordered one and went home and told Mother and Dad. They weren’t angry, and some way we managed to pay for it.

My kids weren’t the only recipients of the old things from Mother’s old trunk. I found the mattress pad she made for my brother’s baby buggy almost seventy years ago. I turned it into tree-shaped ornaments for his kids and grandkids with a note telling about his birth.

Sam family ornament

I’m eleven years older than he is, and now I’m the only one who has these memories. I told how our dad chose to name his newborn son after Dad’s brother, and our mother firmly put her foot down. He wouldn’t be named after Dad’s brother unless he was named after hers, too. They compromised and named my brother after two uncles—one on Dad’s side of the family and one on Mother’s side. After my nieces and nephews thanked me for the ornaments, one niece said, “We don’t know these things unless you tell us.” A great-nephew hugged me and said, “Now I know how Pa-pa got his name.”

The old trunk isn’t empty yet, and I’m sure it will be the source for more gifts next year. While others are shopping for new things to give, my kids, grandkids, and nieces and nephews know what they’ll receive from me will be something old with bits of family history attached.