As a young girl growing up on the Bronx I did not have many material goods to my name. We had a roof which at times leaked and torn up in little bits that rained down on us. We had food although often consisting of bread and some butter. Sometimes we had heat. The city took pity on the apartment residents and one year gave us electric blankets. We were grateful for that. We were grateful for all we had. It was not much, but there was no pint in crying over it. We adapted, persevered and rose above the circumstances.
Christmas was joyous holiday in that the spirit of love was in the veins and the parrandas (Puerto Rican version of caroling) brought a certain sass to the air. However, Christmas was also difficult for we had no money to buy fancy gifts. Who am I kidding we barely had money for any type of gift. No fanciness needed. There was one time when a local Chinese gift store burned down and they allowed neighborhood residents to rummage through the store to salvage items. That was a good Christmas year. I thoroughly treasured that slightly burnt wallet.
As a result we tended to make homemade gifts. So many of which I no longer have or even remember. I know that I treasured them. We tended to also perform for the holidays. My mother loved performing -especially singing-and we would sing, dance, and cite poems. My mother would record those and those recordings in turn would be our gift to each other. It was a remembrance of a moment where we had nothing but each other and our voices. We had life and that is what we celebrated.
One year, my aunt gave me a typewriter for Christmas and I felt a grand sense of ecstasy. I typed away and wrote my first novel. My mom was so proud for she knew that one day I would grow up to be somebody. She , in turn, helped me create an art cover for my book. We worked together and drew a young woman with flowing hair that waved in the air. She was free and spirited. She was to be me. We did it together as a Christmas gift for each other. The future would be bright we believed. Hand made gifts were at the root of my being.
Many years later, a pair of friend of ours made us an etching of a pepper that was simple but sweet. It still hands on my kitchen wall. The couple if no longer together but our memory of them in that happy moment still lingers on. Their hands created something whose essence cannot be taken away despite the fact that they have since moved on. Memories linger even more strongly by the might of the hand.
Nowadays, my little boy makes drawings of multi-armed robots. There is nothing more precious in the world than that. I cannot want for more when I have little precious hands doodling with love for me.