Give the church ladies some popsicle sticks and a can of gold spray paint, and they can dream up handmade gift ideas for Mama.

Give the church ladies some popsicle sticks and a can of gold spray paint, and they can dream up some handmade gift ideas for Mama.

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These days, stores like Walmart and Toys R Us sell all kinds of sophisticated craft kits for everything from jewelry-making to textile-weaving and fashion design. Some of us still remember handmade crafts using simpler tools but a whole lot of ingenuity. They were the Mother's Day gifts of our childhood, usually overseen by our Sunday School teachers. (If Mama's birthday came later in the summer, she might score a gift made in Vacation Bible School—and those crafts were good enough to display at Biltmore. Well . . . almost.)

Give the good sisters of the church a big bottle of Elmer’s Glue, a few bags of macaroni, gold spray paint, ribbon, sequins, and straight pins, and they could devise a Mother’s Day gift that a five-year-old could make and present with pride. They could turn a cigar box into anything from a jewelry box to a doll bed. (And now we have to wonder: How did the fine ladies of the church acquire so many cigar boxes? Surely there is a perfectly logical explanation. But we digress.)

Many of those Mother’s Day memories and birthday gifts are still hanging on Mama’s wall or gracing her dresser. And she made just as much fuss over our paper-and-glue creations as she would a 2-karat sparkler from the jewelry counter at Belk. That’s what makes her Mama.

Remember any of your own handmade Mother's Day gifts and birthday presents—the ones you made as a child and the ones your kids made for you? Here are some of our favorites from back in the day:

The Cigar Box-Turned-Jewelry Box

Our teachers made cloth liners for the inside and then let us decorate the lid—with macaroni. After we glued our noodles to the cigar box, the adults (who didn’t trust us with gold paint) sprayed our boxes for us till they shone like Fort Knox.

Bedazzled Bars of Soap

You’d be amazed how quickly a bar of Ivory can become a work of art: some satin ribbon here, a few sequins there . . . It was all neatly pinned to the soap, which our teachers would affix to some sort of decorative hanger for easy display. Done. Love you, Mama!

Popsicle-Stick Picture Frames

What better receptacle for that Olan Mills portrait of you in your Easter dress or that flower you just painted with your little watrcolor set than a handmade frame made of popsicle sticks, arranged in a sort of weave pattern and glued ever so carefully with Elmer’s? Add your name with a label maker, and voila! A Mama-worthy gift for Mother’s Day.

Magazine-Page Pencil Holder

Rip pages from old magazines, tightly roll them on the diagonal to form cylinders, snip off the excess on each end, and glue vertically to a soup can. Once your can is completely covered with neatly glued paper cylinders, congratulations—you just made Mama a pencil holder she can keep by her telephone.

Clorox-Jug Birdhouse

The church ladies were stretching it a bit to tell our mothers that we made the birdhouses.  We weren’t actually allowed to touch most of this project, as it involved hazardous chemicals and sharp objects. The long and short of it was that our teachers thoroughly washed an empty Clorox jug that we brought from home and then cut a neat little rectangular opening a couple of inches from the bottom of the jug. We put some sort of little bird bed inside and glued rickrack embellishments to the outside before presenting our birdhouses to our Mamas for their gardens.

Footprint Butterflies

Each of us kids stood with our bare feet together on a square piece of plywood, and one of the church ladies traced the outline of our feet with a pencil. The outlines of our feet became the wings of a butterfly, which we decorated with rice, dyed with food coloring and glued to the plywood. Butterfly wings are delicate creations, so handle with care, Mama. Handle with care.

Ready to see Mama in action? Here we go . . .

Junior doesn't EVEN want to know what those pricey blue jeans of his will look like if has to wash them himself. And that's where he's heading if he doesn't get them out of Mama's floor!