Honoring this year’s recession (last year’s rough patch) my wife and I set a limit on gifts for each other: Twenty Dollars. While in years past (when patriotism involved shopping), we became very patriotic, Christmas knew no bounds and packages were piled high.

This year required a bit less wallet and a bit more creativity.

My wife has always been good at this — me, not so much. Her skills at a computer keyboard scouring the internet for just the right thing at just the right price are prodigious. My skills with credit cards, also prodigious.

I started my shopping stumped. My favorite place to buy her gifts had nothing for twenty dollars. Panic. I had to think about what she really cared about: cooking and staying warm. I went to a discount clothing store and found a pair of nice, fuzzy, red polka-dot socks for one dollar! Nineteen to go! Then I found a fleece shawl, originally thirty-eight dollars, marked down to twelve! Warm covered. They had micro umbrellas (my wife also hates getting wet) for five dollars so I bought a purple one. Warm and wet covered, two dollars left for cooking.

I have no skill for crafts but it seemed time to make something. Years before I found some wood and intended to carve my wife a spoon. Never happened. Now seemed the time and I began the task at hand, (my hand still having five fingers but holding a very sharp knife.)

As I carved I realized my piece of wood was likely prehistoric, because it was definitely petrified. No knife of mortal man was going to make a scratch in it, much less a spoon. I went to the hardware store and bought a block of wood.

Running low on time I shaved some, literally and figuratively, by visiting my friend with tools, Bob. He helped fashion my block into the outline of what could become, with imagination, a spoon and I set to work whittling.

The result: a rough stirring spoon that looked like something from which Davy Crockett may have slurped bear stew.

On Christmas day to open: a shawl,  fuzzy socks, purple umbrella and one hand carved Davy Crockett wood spoon. So she knew it came from the hand (still five fingered but a small band-aid on thumb) of her husband, I wrote a Christmas poem:


For you, dear wife, who hung the moon

I made for you this wooden spoon

A block of poplar carved with love

To stir some soup and other grub


It isn’t smooth and n’or am I

but you’re the apple of my eye

and if I had instead some yarn

I would have knitted you a barn


Alas our budget called for reason

And yet it is the Christmas season

So here’s your present, very cheap

My heart and soul are yours to keep


My lovely wife for me found an art-deco cocktail shaker (which covered three of my favorite things: art, cocktails and shaking) and hand picked, gourmet chocolates along with a card with sentiments such as: “What I feel for you is deep, total, and enduring- a love you can count on without ever having to wonder.”

And thus it was the very best Christmas ever and to paraphrase a fairy tale , they lived happily ever after.

I think I’ll eat a chocolate.


The Santa hat was over my Christmas budget so I had to sneak into the drug store, put it on and take the photo. The elderly woman next to me in the aisle thought I was deranged.








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Billy Howard

Billy Howard

Billy Howard is a commercial and documentary photographer with an emphasis on education and global health.