My favorite homemade present this year

December 25, 2015 • Posted in baseball, Mike Knezovich, Mondays with Mike, parenting a child with special needs, Uncategorized by

Am I the only one having a hard time remembering that today is a Friday? That it’s December 25th? Christmas Day?

Above-freezing temperatures in Chicago today are making it feel more like opening day than Christmas day. My great-niece Floey and I celebrated birthdays this week that pretty much trumped (oh, that word!) Christmas. This past week two dear friends lost their mothers, too. We find ourselves reflecting more on their losses, and our losses, than we are on the “magic of the holidays.”

And then there’s this: We already celebrated Christmas with our extended family last Sunday. Shouldn’t Christmas be over by now?

About my extended family: All six of my brothers and sisters are grandparents. My oldest sister Bobbie and her husband Harry have three great-grandchildren. As Mike Knezovich likes to say, “It’s not a family, it’s a nation!” Buying Christmas presents for the entire Finke Nation is out of the question. So we pick names, and you have to make a gift for the person you choose.

The gifts were pretty outstanding this year, but the one our son Gus got from his Aunt Bev in Michigan was my favorite. Some back-story to explain the gift: my sister Bev’s son (Gus’ cousin Brian) came to the United States for a visit in August, 2015. Brian teaches English in Japan, he’s an accomplished photographer, and…he’s a Cubs fan. Anyone who follows this blog knows that Mike Knezovich is an ardent White Sox fan. The Cubs were playing the White Sox when Brian was In town. It was a given. They’d go to a game together.

The Cubs have a tradition: When the Cubs win, they fly a W flag at Wrigley Field. When they lose, they fly an L flag. Cub fans love waving their own W flags in the stands when they win, especially when they’re on the road. They don’t wave L flags when they lose, though.

When crazy ol’ Uncle Mike realized that White Sox all-star Chris Sale was likely to pitch on the day he’d be going to that game with Brian and family, he got what he calls “a brilliant and evil idea.” Mike went online, ordered an L flag (yes, they sell them), secretly folded it up and stuck it in his back pocket on game day. Mike’s Monday’s with Mike post about that game explains what happened in the ninth inning:

White Sox leading 3-0 after a dominating, 15-strikeout game by Chris Sale. Top of the ninth inning. Two out. I reach into my pocket. And then…a home run by Jorge Soler off our closer David Robertson. I took my hand out of my pocket.

A joyous Mike and a disbelieving Brian after the game (photo credit Bev Miller).

A joyous Mike and a disbelieving Brian after the game (photo credit Bev Miller).

A nerve-wracking ninth inning for sure, but the Sox did end up winning, and with that, Mike reached back into his pocket again, and this time he unfurled the L flag –ordered just for this purpose. Five of our family members there at that game were Cub fans, but they took crazy Uncle Mike’s antic in stride. Once home, they described Uncle Mike parading the flag down the ramp as they exited the ballpark and unfurling it on the subway, too. “You wouldn’t believe how many people stopped and asked to take his picture!” they marveled. “He’s gonna be all over Facebook.” Cub fan Bev was one of those photographers, and for Gus’ Christmas gift she framed one photo in an “I heart Dad” picture frame.

Funny. Writing about all this, and thinking of Brian’s time with us in August, family coming from near and far to see him, the joy Aunt Bev put into taking and framing the photo for Gus, Mike’s hearty laugh when he opened Gus’ gift last Sunday,our upcoming train trip to Wisconsin to deliver the gift to Gus…I’m finally feeling the Christmas spirit.

Hard to imagine what our son and the very polite Brewer-fans who work with him will make of the photo when we hang it on Gus’ bedroom wall tomorrow, but I do know this for sure: Gus really does love his crazy old dad. And what a coincidence. So do I. Merry Christmas, everyone!

Pam Berman On December 25, 2015 at 7:38 pm

What a sweet (Hallmark type) story! Merry Christmas to you all & thanks for sharing. I was just talking to my niece about doing a grab bag for the family next year, but I was vetoed down. Seems my niece doesn’t want to risk the possibility of picking her brother’s name from the hat. They are grown-ups, in their 30s.€ Very sad. I must say I feel sad for her, but so blessed that my family of 4 might be a small one, but at least we all love each other. I think I might suggest we try doing a hand crafted exchange between ourselves & my son’s Fiance next year. Thanks again for putting a smile on my face & showing the love!

bethfinke On December 25, 2015 at 8:04 pm

Your son’s *fiancé?! Surely that is a typo. You are not old enough to have a son getting married, are you?


Pamela Berman On December 25, 2015 at 11:00 pm

No Beth, I’m not old enough to have a son getting married… grin. He’s 20 & I’m thankful that they’ve decided to wait 2.5 more years, until he’s graduated & has 1 year of grad school under his belt. Maybe then I’ll be old enough…lol

Marilee On December 25, 2015 at 8:45 pm

Love this post! And what a beautiful gift from Bev! Homemade Christmas is always fun and this year seemed to be very thoughtful! So happy that you shared this idea with the family over 30 years ago!! And a very special thank you to the family elves who record the name picks and gifts exchanged. Even when we are not all together – we have created our own “mini” homemade gift celebrations! And yes, – I have no idea what day it is today- the last three days all felt like Saturday!

bethfinke On December 25, 2015 at 8:51 pm

Phew! I was worried it was old age creeping up on me….


Bev On December 26, 2015 at 9:35 am

Being one of the anchors when this crazy homemade gift idea was launched 34 ago, it’s hard to believe how much fun this tradition has turned out to be. Thanks to all the elves that share pics and the (sometimes needed) explanation of ‘what IS that?’. Though we’re not always in the same location to celebrate Christmas, the homemade gift exchange seems to bring us all together. Merry Christmas!

bethfinke On December 26, 2015 at 9:50 am

Ah, yes. I wish I’d mentioned the (sometimes needed) explanation of ‘what IS that?’ to my post –if you’re reading these comments and considering starting a tradition like this for your own holidays, please know that one needn’t be a craftsperson to make a homemade present . Babies in the family have given gifts of their handprint in play-do, some of us have received back-scratchers made of pinecones, you name it. Every gift is an original piece of art.

bethfinke On December 26, 2015 at 9:51 am

And PS to Bev –my second-favorite gift this year was the tutu your granddaughter received from Minnesota…

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