The Perfect Christmas

by Stefani on 26-November-2007

Christmas Past

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.

Peanut Butter Kisses

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.

Christmas Bells

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.

Christmas Corner

Marjorie November 26, 2007 at 9:53 pm

The peanut butter cookies with chocolate kisses are the best! I was a little disappointed to find out they sell the kisses without the wrappers now. That was always my job as a kid – to unwrap the kisses. (And eat a few, of course!)

Stephanie November 27, 2007 at 1:34 am

That’s a thoughtful philosophy. I’m going to have to remember that when I get impatient or irritated. Thanks.

Sarah Jackson November 27, 2007 at 4:49 am

oh so true. I’m working on managed expectations in my house. We’ll be full of love and warmth and laughter (I hope) but not so much on lots of gifts. For me, that side of it has become all too much, so we’re focusing on the spirit of Christmas this year. Close your eyes – I’m sending some of it your way right now since you just shared some of yours with me.

Tracy Harris November 27, 2007 at 5:26 am

Reading this made me appreciate the holidays just a little bit more.

emily November 27, 2007 at 5:39 am

so beautifully put, stefani. i do try to remember, every day, that releasing my expectations brings greater satisfaction. it’s just so hard to do! here’s to doing it. at the holidays, and every day.

leslie November 27, 2007 at 6:22 am

yes, perfectly said!
and i adore your old photo. wow. right down to your grandmothers Christmas apron.
love, love, love it!!

beki November 27, 2007 at 6:26 am

Such a wonderful post, Stefani!

greenemother November 27, 2007 at 6:42 am

Oh, you made me laugh so hard with the tree farm story, that you brought tears to my eyes! Great stories, thanks for sharing.

randi November 27, 2007 at 6:47 am

The dashed expectations sometimes make the happiest memories! Of course, at the time it doesn’t seem happy at all!

kirsten November 27, 2007 at 7:06 am

i think what’s funny about that top photo is that you look at it and see the ideal, while the people involved might look at it and remember how so-and-so forgot the stuffing, or made a bad pie, or how they weren’t getting along at the time. everyone wants the perfect Christmas – but it’s rarely the tv-inspired ideal, is it? 🙂

brit November 27, 2007 at 8:41 am

I love that picture, for the colors, for the family, for the simplicity of the idea. Gather around the Poinsetta…. LOVE!

You’re right about wanting my children to experience the magic of Christmas. This is really the first year where they seem to get the concept…. I can’t wait!

And it’s true, some of my best holiday memories go from plans gone awry, presents undone, or Christmas trees bought at the twelfth hour

erin November 27, 2007 at 12:50 pm

i agree that the things that you don’t plan, the ones that just happen, make the best memories. i hope you have lots of those moments this holiday season!

mountain mama November 27, 2007 at 1:28 pm

I really loved this post!

I also lived the picture. Nothing like staring at pictures from long ago and noticing things in the background that are not meant to be the focus of the picture. That’s a GREAT table and chairs– is it, by any chance, still around? Who has it now?

Christmas for us this year, will be reduced to the basics, money-wise. But it will still be celebrated with plenty of love and spirit and food. I think Christmas has gotten over-rated and over commercialized and people have forgotten what Christmas is supposed to be about, really.

Thanks for sharing your memories with us.

mountain mama November 27, 2007 at 1:29 pm

LOVED the picture, I mean. Not ‘lived’.

emily ruth November 27, 2007 at 2:01 pm

here here! love to think back over the years…such great times…thanks for the reminder:)

Lynn November 27, 2007 at 2:18 pm

That is so true. We remember the things that are different or “stick out” in some way.

Lina November 27, 2007 at 4:55 pm

Ah, the realities of the holiday season…we mamas are just so hard on ourselves!

molly November 27, 2007 at 7:49 pm

can I just say that I’m glad I know you? (even though we’ve never met in real life–but this is real life, too…)
i love your perspectives on life. they bring a touch of beauty to my day.

sarah November 27, 2007 at 8:38 pm

” 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.”

that brought tears to my eyes. twice. so beautiful. you need to write a book.

thanks you for the reminder that perfection isn’t a necessity for wondrous times.

Amber November 28, 2007 at 3:13 pm

Oh, thank you for this post. It’s what I’ve thought all along. I have my list of Christmases gone awry and they are the ones I remember fondly, with a big smile. Now, as our coming Christmas is probably not going to be “perfect” by any means I hope my kids will bring from it laughter, fond memories, and yes, joy.

Siri November 29, 2007 at 11:23 am

I hear you. Sure, we remember the traditions, but it’s the ones that were different in some way, good or bad, that stand out from all the rest.

Dallas December 2, 2007 at 11:40 am

Your pictures remind me of Christmas with my Mom’s side of the family. My grandmother has that same table and chair set – the red with chrome, and my aunt makes delicious cookies with the chocolate kisses in them like that.

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