Homemade presents hold special place in the heart

Jerry Apps
A pair or wooden, homemade deer crafted by Jerry Apps' son and family greet visitors at the front door of the Apps' household.

On these days after Christmas, I often think about the gifts I have received in the past, especially when I was a kid growing up on a farm during the Great Depression. Money was scarce in those days and “store-bought” presents were few.

I remember most of all the homemade presents I received during those rather dreary times. My grandmother was a knitter, and I, along with my two brothers, often received newly knitted mittens as Christmas presents—how I prized them. Best of all she knitted a heavy woolen scarf for me one year. I wore it when I walked to school on below-zero winter days. My mother wrapped the scarf around my head and shoulders so everything was covered, except for my eyes. As I walked along our snow-covered country road, I thought about my grandmother sitting by a wood stove, knitting. The thoughts helped keep me warm.

I also remember fondly, the skis my grandfather made for me one Christmas. He made them out of birch boards. I learned that he had steamed the ends of the boards over a boiling kettle so the boards turned up at the ends. He fashioned pieces of leather to hold my rubber boots in place. How wonderful they were. They did not have grooves on their bottoms, so on packed snow they were as likely to go sideways as straight ahead—but that was some of the fun in having them.

I received the two little homemade deer from my son and his family who live in Colorado. They have been a part of our Christmas decorations for several years. They welcome friends by our front door.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: There is something special about homemade Christmas presents.

Jerry Apps

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work go to