"The Best Gift I've Ever Gotten"

Actually, these lucky women got two gifts. One was a personalized memento. The other was all the love that went into making it.

homemade gift comic strip

THE GIFT: A customized comic strip

Keri Kersten, 42, Lake Bluff, III.

BEING A MOM means everything to Keri Kersten. She and her husband, Jeff, have 3-year-old twins—a boy and girl, Halas and Norah—who arrived after years of fertility struggles. "We had a long, long journey," Keri says. "Because we didn't know if it was going to happen at all, we soak up every single second we have with them."

That's why it was so hard when Keri, a corporate trainer for a chemical manufacturer, had to briefly leave Halas and Norah to go on her first overseas business trip since their birth. The children were 15 months old at the time, and "I was in Europe for two weeks, and it was very stressful," Keri recalls. "Even though I called every night to say good night, the twins were so little they couldn't really talk to me, and I didn't know how much they understood. Did they even know I would come home again?"

Realizing how tough the trip had been for Keri, Jeff wanted to do something special for his wife's 41st birthday, which came shortly after Keri's return. "I'm always trying to think of ways to celebrate how much Keri devotes to our family and how much the twins adore her," he says. So Jeff, a longtime comics fan, asked Jason Nocera, a friend and cartoonist, to create a personalized strip with Keri as SuperMom!

"When I unwrapped it, I didn't realize it was customized," Keri says. "I saw the first frame and thought, Gee, that's funny—this woman is doing corporate training, just like me. Then in the second frame, a mom was singing "Over the Rainbow," which we sang to the twins. By the third frame, I had burst into tears. I put it up on Facebook with the caption Best Birthday Present Ever!" Today the strip hangs in the kids' nursery. "The comic is so moving," Jeff says. "In four panels, Jason genuinely captured the relationship between Keri and the twins. There was love in each rectangle, preserved for posterity."




Cartoonists such as Jason Nocera can make a strip for you. His work, available at nichecartoons.com, starts at $120 for a custom black-and-white comic strip.


Pixton.com allows you to create your own characters. At toondoo.com, you can include your photos and put together a comic book.


Marvel comics offers a free, fun (Pow! Bam!) create-your-own option using Marvel characters.