TONY COX, host:
Commentator S. Pearl Sharp says the best gifts to give this season are handmade and from the heart, even if they turn out less than perfect.
S. PEARL SHARP: You won't find me in the mall this shopping season. I've always treasured the homemade gift, made with love and pride, handcrafted gift, plus I get to show off my talent.
Problem is, and this is a confession, there are some gifts I should never have given. One year, I decided to make loaves of fresh bread for my family. The inspiration? This side of my family was into the mall stuff. You know, knit sweaters, matching robe and pajama sets and all that. And I was really broke.
So baking bread was supposed to spare the credit card and also spread some spiritual enlightenment like homemade bread with fresh herbs symbolizing the essence of the earth - a healthy life, etc., etc.
So, I measured and sifted, and folded, and kneaded, and kneaded. And just as I set the beautiful mound of dough in a warm place for it to rise, the phone rang. My agent had a last minute acting audition for me.
I weighed the rising dough against my sinking career. Within minutes, I had put on my make up and was gone. It was unfortunately one of those hurry-up-and-wait auditions. And by the time I returned several hours later, the gooey dough was stretching out of the bowl and across the counter like a yawning octopus.
Not to be outdone, I rescued the dough and made those gifts. The result was dry and hard loaves but I passed them off as a special form of herb bread, thereby turning off the entire family from eating health foods forever.
My classic don't do this at home gift is the blue suede suit I made for a boyfriend. Yes, blue suede.
Okay, I was in love. And I can sew. And he was looking really good in the pants and was anxiously waiting for me to finish the jacket.
This took longer than I had anticipated and we happened to break up before the holiday. I had the suit delivered to his office in a beautifully gift-wrapped box. Inside there was the jacket body - the left sleeve, the right sleeve, and the lining. I figured he could finish putting them together anyway he wanted to.
Now, here's the biggest gift-giving mistake of all. I had been talking to an elder whose family had lived and worked as sharecroppers. This was before MP3s and iPods, designer jeans and video games. I mean we're talking before television. Back then, she said, black folks had so little that receiving an orange and a peppermint stick was like the best gift in the world.
You knew that your parents had sacrificed something to get fresh oranges for all of the children. I was so moved that I decided to create that experience for my nieces and nephews who ranged in aged from 5 to 11 and who, by the way had never, ever been near a farm.
Bad idea. The children were not prepared to receive this history lesson as a gift. Not only were they disappointed. They were confused. They were not sure if I was mad at them or on something.
But after a half century of holiday shopping, I know these gifts I made when I was broke or when I was in love were the most rewarding. They came from my heart, even when the results got a little crazy.
I'm not giving up. Right now, I've got my grandmama's recipe for fruitcake. Now, let me see who is on my list.
(Soundbite of music)
COX: S. Pearl Sharp is a writer and filmmaker living in Los Angeles.
(Soundbite of music)
This is NPR News.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.