This sweet photos is of my mom and aunts, her parents and her grandparents. It is one of my all time favorite family photos… the colors, the table, the perfection of it all… perfectly dressed little girls in patent leather shoes, with hair curled just so, sipping their egg nog.
I mean, look at that table! It is so perfectly polished that you can see the reflection of my great grandmother’s hands in it. Heck, even Jack Frost cooperated, painting his exactly right icicles on the windows, just to complete the scene.
It’s what we all want from the holidays right? Family togetherness, laughter, good times, everything pretty and shiny and bright, not to mention melt in your mouth delicious.
I’m sure I’m not the only mother, who wants her children to taste magic and wonder at Christmas, who wants to orchestrate the most wonderful holiday ever to be had. I’d like to please everyone, meet every obligation, perfect every recipe, do every craft, leave no idyllic memory unmade. I’d like to think that my holidays will always be so picture perfect as this one looks to have been.
But then… truth be told… many of my fondest Christmas memories are born of expectations unmet and plans gone awry.
When I was about 7, there was an ice storm, and our car just couldn’t manage the roads, so we walked the last quarter mile home. It was so dark, and so cold. I remember walking, one shakey inch at a time, while holding the kitten that had Santa brought me, it’s terrified little body shaking as it dug its claws into my coat. I also remember thinking it was possible that the sharp pain in my chest wasn’t from breathing cold air, but from the crushing beauty of the starry sky.
Or, there was the time we went to Colorado. I was just a teenager and the thing I remember most is my brother getting sick from bad sausage at the Hungry Logger and my Dad singing endless rounds of John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High”. If you can strain your ocular muscles from incessant eye rolling, I would have done it, to be sure.
There was also the time when I insisted we go to a farm and cut our own tree. I was not going to have any emaciated chain store version of a tree, oh no, nothing but a hand cut tree would do. Somehow though, in the giant field of firs, we misjudged the grandness of our selection. We got that tree home and found that there was no way on earth it would fit in our living room. We set it up in the front yard and became something of a neighborhood tourist attraction… and then we went to Walmart for a tree that would actually fit through the front door. Oh the irony.
Of course, I can’t forget the time when we drove to Dallas with a 21 month old and 6 month old who had reflux. They both cried the entire way, and James did so much puking that the car had a terrible stench for ages afterward. When we reached our hotel, the babies weren’t the only ones crying, but, thanks to a husband who had built up some serious Hyatt miles on his work travels, we landed a room that I’d only ever imagine existed… two stories, with a 10 foot Christmas tree, and a gingerbread house the size of a German shepherd on the dining room table (that’s right, it had a dining room). Frustrated, haggard tears were soon exchanged for sides that hurt from all the giddy laughter. There was bed jumping, swimming in the giant tub, and lot’s of, “Come here! You’ll never guess what else they’ve got in here!”
So I hope, I really do, that I can remember, when things don’t go quite as I expected, when I have to say no, when a recipe flops or a gift is not met with the enthusiasm that I’d hoped, that those are only the seeds that will flower into the most cherished holiday memories of all.