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In my memoir Anne of Green Gables, My Daughter and Me, I write about that luminous moment in Anne of Green Gables when Matthew Cuthbert gives his Anne Girl the gift of her dreams:
A brown Gloria dress with puffed sleeves! What struck me wasn’t just the dress itself or how much she loved it, it was the effort and love that went into the gift.
“Matthew…noticed a scarcity in the one he adored. It finally dawned on him: Anne though she sparkled like Orion, appeared drab and colorless next to her friends, all adorned in red, blue, pink and white. Why must his sister, Marilla, keep her “so plainly and soberly gowned”? A girl that shone like Anne should not be gowned so.”
So, the shy old bachelor farmer musters up the courage to go to the general store and make conversation with a terrifying (to him) female behind the counter. Remember the scene in the book or movie? He can’t bring himself to inquire about a dress with puffed sleeves, and ends up buying twenty pounds of sugar and a garden rake instead.
I adore this scene, because it shows how much Matthew loved Anne. He noticed her—he really paid attention. Anne cared about frivolous (to Marilla), fashionable clothing. She wanted to fit in with the other girls. And there was nothing about Anne which was practical or sensible. Dreamy, fanciful, with a heart almost plainly visible outside her body—that was this girl who had become his very own daughter.
As we approach gift-giving season, this story made me think about the kind of giving I want to do.
I’m a whole lot like Anne—hence the Anne-braided memoir! And my love language is gifts, which means that I “thrive on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort” behind a gift (according to www.5lovelanguages.com).
I also love giving meaningful gifts that will increase my bond with whomever my recipient is. Now that doesn’t mean that I have to give or receive lavish, expensive gifts. In fact, another one of my books: Money Secrets of the Amish, taught me to engage in “frugal abundance” when I gave a gift.
Here are a few ideas for you as you gear up to give and receive this Christmas:
1. Install the “Gifts of the Wise Men” construct: Something you want, something you need, and a surprise. We have done this for many years with our three children, all December babies (yes, that was poor planning on our part!) This paradigm works great, cuts back on excess, and gives you a chance to buy snow pants for Christmas and get away with it! My kids have never complained, because they know this is how it is at our house. Still, kind of amazing, right? Try it!
2. It Doesn’t Have to Come in a Box: This year, give your kids and grandkids the gift of an experience. How about tickets to a sports event or play? Membership to a zoo or art museum or aquarium? It’s an investment in relationships, rather than electronics and toys, an idea completely in line with Amish abundance.
3. Go homegrown: DIY is all the rage, so why not give your recipients something made by hand? One year, I bought my daughter an UGLY jewelry box at the thrift store, sanded it, painted it aqua and glued gorgeous multicolored buttons on old drawer pulls. I filled each little drawer with secondhand baubles, and the whole thing cost me $12. This was pre-Pinterest, so now there are oodles of ideas online. I’ve also made “snowman kits”, using hats and scarves from the thrift store, Oreos for eyes and carrots for the noses, and “snow spray paint”, using dollar store spritzers, and a couple of drops of food coloring. Just add snow.
4. Savory edible Gifts: Every year, I whip up a batch of egg and broccoli quiches as teacher gifts. If I make them four at once, using refrigerated crusts (I watch for sales), it takes me 20 minutes kitchen time and costs me about $2 per quiche. Honestly, I stumbled onto this one year by accident, but the response from the teachers was as if I had handed them a gift-wrapped bag of $20 bills! One teacher called me to thank me; the bus driver wrote me a thank-you note. What I have learned is that most edible gifts are sweet, and the teachers are thankful for something savory that they can eat as a meal.
Well, what do you think? Do you have any “frugal abundance” ideas to share here?
Lorilee Craker is the author of fourteen books, including Money Secrets of the Amish, for which she was nominated for a 2012 Audie Award for best audio book, personal development (Jane Fonda won in her category!); Anne of Green Gables, My Daughter, and Me, a memoir braiding her and her daughter’s adoption with Anne’s story, and the New York Times bestseller Through the Storm with Lynne Spears. She lives in a 1924 house in Michigan with her husband, three children, a dog, two cats and a neurotic little hedgehog named Spike. She blogs about books, teenagers, Gilbert Blythe, books, TV recaps, and well, more books at www.Lorileecraker.com, posts about all of the above on Facebook, and loves to take dreamy photos of books, succulents (she’s a little bit obsessed), and teacups at her Instagram account @thebooksellersdaughter.