I generally try to make Christmas presents for my kids. Last year I made them a set of blocks designed to build castles, and this year I made them wooden shields, with wolves for my eldest, whose middle name means “young wolf”, and hawks for my youngest, whose first name is also the name for a species of small hawk. They are about two feet by two feet in size and quite heavy, and they came with wooden swords made by the young entrepreneur that I mentioned some time ago, so they would actually be dangerous if I were to let the boys use them as toys, but they are intended instead to hang on the wall as their own personal coats of arms, something that symbolically ties them to our family.
The colours of their shields and the pattern of three animals come from my mother’s Gordon coat of arms, from my father’s Hill coat of arms, and from my wife’s James coat of arms, and the chevron comes from the latter two, so the boys’ personal symbols are integrated into the symbolism of their parents’ families. Of course, anyone who takes heraldry seriously would be horrified at this kind of unsanctioned alteration of official heraldic devices, but I am less interested in having the shields be authentic than I am in having them be personal and familial. I want them to be a symbol to my children that, though they are unique and irreplaceable, they are also always a part of a family and a tradition that can give them a place to belong.
This is the gift that I hope they are receiving this Christmas.