Here is what greeted me on my birthday the other day. Animal print cloth bags filled with garden gloves, books and clothing accompanied by homemade cards produced by my husband and sons.
We have been using cloth gift bags for Christmas for about 15 years...using the same set of bags over and over again...laying them out on Christmas Eve for Santa to fill, but it was only in the last few years that we extended that tradition to include birthdays. Each of us picked out a favorite fabric which I then made into a total of four bags. The bags are then used throughout the year for each of our birthdays.
The homemade card tradition came about as a result of me wanting something personal from my family. For many years when they would ask me what I wanted for my birthday, I would tell them that the only thing I wanted was a poem that they had written. While they balked at the effort required for that, they didn't resist my suggestion to make up a card. I treasure each of the cards they have made, a true reflection of each of their personalities.
For me, trying to live a more sustainable life means forming connections, whether it is with with the local farmer that grows my food, or my child when they give of themselves through a homemade card. It also means bringing more meaning to the way I do things. Using cloth birthday bags over and over again year to year, makes the whole process take on a different feel. I am connected to the cloth bags with their beautiful bird or dog prints and the history and story behind them, much more than store bought wrapping paper that will be ripped off in a minute and thrown away.