My memories of Christmas involve helping my mom in the kitchen of our (less than a thousand square foot) home. Amy Grant’s A Christmas Album was playing on the cassette player on the counter, and we were elbow-deep in wrapping paper and trimmings or homemade cookie dough. Snow covered the ground outside, but the warmth coming from our heating vents rivaled the warmth I felt as I helped my mom prepare for Christmas Day.
As “Tender Tennessee Christmas” played on the boom box, I remember dreaming of warm Christmases some families must enjoy in the South. My aunt lived in North Carolina, and I imagined their holidays spent in the sepia tones of Christmas perfection. I was oblivious to the fact that my own mama was wishing she could create a better Christmas for us. I was happy to simply go along with whatever plans and traditions we were enjoying.
Looking back, those Christmases spent in Maine as a child were utter perfection. There is not a single thing I would change. From the yearly trip to our friend’s tree farm to pick out one of the $5 trees to the annual trip to the flagship L.L. Bean store–all of it exists in my memories as perfect as those sepia tones I imagined as a child. We drank eggnog milkshakes from McDonald’s as we drove our beat-up station wagon around looking at lights in pretty neighborhoods. My dad always watered-down the eggnog at home–half skim milk, half eggnog–to make it last longer. It’s laughable now, but it was tradition! Everything stopped when it was time to decorate the tree. Our whole family participated as music played in the background.
I have spent the last 9 Christmases since my son was born wishing I could somehow make Christmas as perfect for my children as it was for me. Now that we live in the South (just a few minutes from the Tennessee line, actually!), I’ve endeavored to create the “Tender Tennessee Christmas” I imagined as a child. There’s usually not a snowflake to be found, but our cozy fireplace provides a warm glow as my record player scratches out the tunes from the vintage Amy Grant Christmas album or the classic Christmas Chipmunks vinyl.
But this year, I was struck with a sudden thought: perhaps, just maybe, my children will remember our Christmases now as perfect, simply because it was theirs…maybe Christmas isn’t about all of the fuss and frantic hustle, but rather about the memories we make just being us? See, my children weren’t there when I was a kid, making “perfect” Christmas memories in our tiny New England home. So they can’t compare their Christmas memories to my sepia-toned ones. Maybe the secret of Christmas perfection is that it will be perfect in their memories simply because we were altogether as a family, carrying on our own traditions in our own ways?
Maybe…I shouldn’t try so hard to make everything JUST RIGHT. Maybe I should just be–in the present, enjoying, laughing, and singing along to the music. Maybe as moms we should just relax and quit stressing about creating perfection–and enjoy the perfection that exists right in front of us.
I’m positive that Christmas wasn’t actually “perfect” when I was a kid. I’m sure there were family arguments and fighting over the last cookies. I don’t remember much of that, though. And I bet our kids won’t either.