The season of optimism is upon us. It’s the time of year when our imaginations paint pictures of idyllic holidays that are virtually impossible to obtain in real life.
We ignore facts and paint pictures in our minds of tables filled with a meal that looks like it was prepared by Martha Stewart, a blessing over that food that is so powerful it sounds like Mother Theresa prayed it and a house filled with homemade decorations that look exactly like they did on Pinterest. The season when we tell ourselves things like, “I am going to really do it this time” or “It won’t be that hard.”
If the truth be told, holidays are never perfect. More than likely, they are filled with stories of third-degree burns after attempting to bring melted sugar to the “hard ball stage” while making homemade candy, Christmas cards that never get addressed or sent out and rather than a group sing-along with your extended family around the fire to celebrate the joyful season, things end with Uncle Ernie getting drunk and falling into the Christmas tree.
As a mother, I wanted to make the perfect Christmas memories for my kids. I assumed from what I had read and seen that we should all be dressed in the finest clothes, sitting by the Christmas tree opening our gifts, with polite remarks of “Oh, thank you kindly, Mother and Father. My heart is overjoyed with gladness,” as gifts were slowly passed from one to another with love. Instead, it was usually paper flying, the wrong gift getting opened by the wrong person and even paper cuts followed by real blood.
No one remembers the handcrafted pine cone wreath I made and hung on the door. They never rejoiced that I spent a whole day vacuuming under the furniture so everything looked nice and not a single soul ever gave me praise for standing in line at the grocery store so I could get real chestnuts for the dressing.
But what they do still talk about is how we all laughed when my brother gave us a family photo, and rather than using a frame, he used a toilet seat. We remember the homemade baklava and cream horns that brought back memories of our childhood, and we cherish the memory of standing on the porch of an elderly lady to sing carols and being met with a scowl and a slowly closing door as we sang our hearts out.
In my mind, I worked my tail off because “I was doing the work of Heaven,” angelic in my sacrifice, love and generosity. Now that I look back, I’m not sure my actions lined up with my vision.
I really thought I was being kind to my neighbor during the season of giving as I threw elbows to get the last electric knife for my mother-in-law at a Black Friday sale?
I traipsed all over the Earth to find what would make my kiddos squeal with delight, then brought those gifts home, hid them and lied like a prisoner on death row to keep them from finding out what I got. (If you want to know if you could commit to a life of crime, check first to see if you can keep secrets during the holidays. I think the pressure of not spilling the beans when asked, “What did you get me?” would disqualify the majority of folks.)
If lying isn’t enough during the season of purity, you become a mobster-type thug, threatening your family within an inch of their life that if they snoop, all of their gifts will be returned and they will have to return them themselves as additional punishment! You find out how low you can really go when you are trying to provide the perfect holiday for your family.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, the memories that stand the test of time are not the ones that are perfect and polished. The ones that stick with you are the ones that leave you with a smile and remind you of who you are as a person and as a family, or whatever group you gather with. So this year, don’t try to make the holidays perfect. Try to make them “memories.”