Christmas tree decorating day, 2012.
“False memories! That’s what we’re creating!” Marc commented as he looked at the above picture. And it’s true. The idyllic look of the smiling-faced children embracing around the Christmas tree was so NOT the night that we had. It began when I came in the door and spilled half of my eggnog chai latte (a BIG splurge for me) all over the floor and Marc’s new-ish leather briefcase. I was really mad about that. Luke told me to “Relax.Everyone makes mistakes…” (Thanks, son. Now leave mommy so she can have her freak out.)
Tonight was pizza and movie night — the first Christmas movie of the year, Home Alone. And once the pizza was made and the movie was watched we were all going to decorate the Christmas tree. Except Marc was working on a present for an early Sinterklaas (Dutch Christmas) celebration we’re having tomorrow, which meant that Madeline wanted to work on hers. Which meant there were three of us doing the tree. And one of those kids tangled up half of the red beads, which meant that I had to sit there and untangle them for twenty minutes before anyone could start putting on decorations. I think it was just before 9pm that we started decorating.
Last year I bought a whole bunch of new ornaments to replace the many that have not survived over the years. I was hoping to make a tree mostly of those ornaments. We put a small tree in the basement where I told the kids to go nuts and put a bunch of their ornaments on. Not that I mind having an eclectic tree with the homemade ornaments. It’s just that I imagined that maybe this year, for the first time since we’ve had kids — which is exactly ten years this Christmas! — that I could have a bit more control over the tree. I would have liked that. And as the kids kept grabbing the “unique” ornaments and putting them on, I just felt sad and a little frustrated — like I had the potential to feel A LOT MORE frustrated if I let myself. But I didn’t.
In the end, the evening was okay. I’d say Marc and I were grumpy most of the time, but I was really trying hard not to get REALLY grumpy — you know the kind of grumpy where you have that moment where you consciously decide that you are NOT going to enjoy else that happens in the evening, even if it’s a good thing? Well, I didn’t get that grumpy.
We got the kids into bed as quickly as we could because it was way past their bedtime and we have a full weekend of fun things planned with friends. As Luke was climbing into bed the Rankin sisters singing “Angels We Have Heard on High” came on the stereo (his favourite song). I laid down next to him and listened to the music and him commenting on how much he loves that song and wants to sing it in a Christmas concert sometime. And the night ended much more peacefully than it started.
I know that’s just life. But I think we all want nights like this to be perfect. We want the smiling faces and the laughing and merriment as we put ornaments on the tree and dance around to the Christmas music playing softly in the background. And then we fart rainbows and it’s Christmas.
But it’s just never going to be like that. The memories we make will never be perfect because we are never perfect and we, imperfect people, like to create families of imperfect people who live under the same roof and have the same DNA but have completely different ideas and expectations about how life should go.
I don’t think these special memories need to be perfect. But, I think “perfect” may very well mean that we are willing to be okay with imperfect moments. That we settle into bed at night with peace rather than panic about how the day went. I mean, we celebrate Christmas with shiny bows and twinkly lights and perfectly tied ribbons around our carefully selected packages, but it all gets ripped apart and discarded because we want to experience the things of Christmas. And I think the best way to experience Christmas is to recognize that God came down to this messy and grumpy earth to live among his messy and grumpy people to give us hope in our messiness and grumpiness. Not because we do everything perfectly but precisely because we do not.
So tonight, while I look at the twinkling lights of our Christmas tree, and I think about the fact that ten years ago this Christmas I was holding my first-born in my arms, a girl who was just 10 days old, and I think about that we are now on our sixth Christmas with all three of our kids… well… I think about a lot of things.
I do wish that I could think of one Christmas where somebody didn’t get frustrated. Where there was no arguing or grumpiness or selfishness. But alas… I am left with the real memories.
Christmas 2007 (Olivia’s first Christmas) where we risked electrocution in order to get the perfect shot.
Christmas 2008 where we thought Push Pops would be a good way to get the kids to sit still for pictures…
Christmas 2009 where the day after we put up the tree we discovered mouse poop in every drawer of our kitchen (and eventually under the Christmas tree)
Christmas 2010 seems to have been an uneventful Christmas (just a little bit of mouse poop)
Christmas 2011 was a good year. My biggest memory was of the family movie nights in December where we invited all of our friends to join us — we had up to 15 people in the living room of that teeny trailer watching movies every Friday that month. Oh, and, yes, we caught a vole in the floor vent in the middle of one of those movie nights.
Christmas 2012 Well… you’ve heard about that one here I guess. Certainly not perfect. But that’s okay. Anything worth doing will probably take enough energy to make you tired by the end of it (or the start of it). Doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. It just means that tonight I should probably go to bed and get a good rest so I’m not grumpy again in the morning…
Goodnight! And happy start of Christmas to you and yours.