Gifts that keep on giving

I have a pie stand that I cannot use. Both the glass stand and cover are structurally sound; there are no cracks or chips anywhere. Therefore, if I wanted to, I could use it to cool and store homemade apple pies (with homemade crust, thank you very much).

However, for the past four years, my pie stand has sat behind the closed glass doors of our kitchen hutch, displaying, most likely in perpetuity, something far more enticing: a gingerbread house. More precisely, the gingerbread house that my youngest nephew made and gave to me for Christmas one year.

One constructs gingerbread houses to eat them at a later date, usually after the mandatory oohs and ahs from family and friends. And I’m sure that there is some sort of expiration date by which one can safely consume them without having to take an unexpected trip to the emergency room. And yet, when I first received my nephew’s gift, I couldn’t bring myself to eat it. Not even a nibble.

In a world where instant gratification and store-bought gifts seem to be the norm, I am keenly aware that this particular gift required both time and effort on his part — it is a serious matter deciding where green and red skittles should go and how much frosting to add throughout a house.

Hence, like a museum artifact, it now sits safely inside a display case of sorts, adding a touch of holiday flare to the hot summer months.

Mom received a similar gift. However, lacking a pie stand like the one I own, she opted to store her gingerbread house in the freezer. Therefore, we are all reminded of the wonderful gift that her grandson made for her whenever anyone reaches in to get ice cubes or frozen pork chops.

One of the benefits of being an aunt or an uncle is that you become the happy recipient of various types of gifts from nieces and nephews.

During their preschool years, my nephews preferred to take an abstract approach and created works of art that required the artist’s interpretation for full appreciation, “Oh, so this swirl of scribbles is actually a portrait of me? Very nice!”

Prior to my nephews learning how to talk, I had to take certain liberties when interpreting their artwork, “Oh, so this swirl of scribbles is actually a swirl of scribbles? Very nice!”

As they moved into their grade school years, their drawings took on more recognizable forms. Forget Vincent van Gogh’s 1889 oil on canvas, A Wheatfield with Cypresses. My eldest nephew’s circa 2002 Crayola paint on school art paper, Sunflowers in a Vase, is much more priceless.

Fortunately, my sister had the foresight to turn this particular painting into mouse pads that where given as gifts to everyone in the family. Since then, it is the only mouse pad that I use whenever I write at my desk.

Other gifts that I have received over the years include various types of homemade jewelry made from dry macaroni shells, colorful beads, and charms. Gifts have also included an array of homemade cards, store-bought but nephew-selected stuffed animals, flowers for my garden, and more paintings and drawings than you can count.

Several years ago, my youngest nephew, the architect of the aforementioned gingerbread house, wrote a poem for me, A Poem for Titi So. The title needs some clarification.

The Spanish word for aunt is tía. Within some families, including mine, an informal Spanish word for aunty is pronounced something like the word tea in English (i.e., tea-tea) and written as Titi.

My name is a tongue twister in any language. Therefore, my nephews grew up referring to me simply as Titi So (Aunty So). The vowel o is pronounced in Spanish. This means that it has more of an open quality (lips stay open) versus an open-closed quality (lips start open but begin closing at the end) as when pronouncing the word “so” in English as in “So what?”

This is the poem my nephew wrote for me:

“Titi So is like a sunflower because she always looks bright and peaceful and stands out.

She is like a Hershey kiss because she always gives hugs and kisses and is always sweet.

She is like space because her love is never ending.

She is like a musical note because she brings music wherever she goes.”

Luckily, I won’t need another pie stand to store this particular gift. This one is easy. It’s forever engraved in my heart.

To see Soraya’s pictures visit


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