It was a New Year’s Eve long ago. My newborn baby, only three days old, slept peacefully in my arms. My plump, comfy chair was pulled against the French doors leading out to the deck. I could feel the cold draft and my fluffy blanket was wrapped snuggly around us. My toddler sat on the floor cuddling the dog, while her older sister hummed Christmas carols beside us.
Neil’s annual fireworks display was toned down that year, because I didn’t want to take the baby outside. Instead of the street, the fireworks were lined in a row of about twenty on the deck railing. As he hopped gleefully down the row, lighting each one as he went, he dipped and weaved to avoid the sparks and ashes. Then he retraced his steps, knocking the spent ones off the deck, lining up a new row and repeating the whole process. “Pop, pop, pop,” two-year-old Jackie exclaimed cheerfully over and over again, as we watched through the glass doors. Gina oohed and awed with each new display, and my sweet babe slept through it all.
Those moments are etched in my mind forever, as perfect as any Hallmark movie or Norman Rockwell painting. Over the years that image has often been the unconscious standard by which all other holidays are judged. This year, my empty nest gave me ample peace and quiet to gratefully ponder those old memories. However, being honest with myself and really concentrating on the details reminded me that the scene wasn’t all that perfect.
Jackie said, “Pop, pop, pop” at least a hundred times, trying to be louder than the fireworks that were going off only three feet away. The dog didn’t like the noise and was pacing and howling pitifully. Gina got bored after the first ten rounds (yes, there were more than ten) and wandered off to play with her Christmas presents. Neil didn’t set anything on fire, but he scorched his coat and left a collection of used fireworks piled in the yard until spring. And that quiet baby in my arms? She woke up a half hour later and stayed up all night.
There is no perfect.
It’s good to remember those simple words at this time of year as we struggle to create the perfect celebration, decorate the perfect home, find the perfect gift. Life isn’t perfect. Even those Hallmark moments cemented in our minds have flaws, and wishing life could be like those glossy memories is sure to disappoint. I can relinquish the dream to create perfect moments, and instead be happy with my messy house, my lopsided Christmas tree, my slightly burned lasagna. I can relax in the imperfection.
There is no perfect; but there is still abundant joy.