I bought these little wooden Nutcracker Ornaments when they were cheaper than dirt last January. I saw them not as the unfinished product they were, legs and arms tangled in the reject bin, but as they would be–the focal point of my lovely tree, painted in glittering red, blue, and green, maybe even with tiny brass buttons on their little jackets.
But busyness hijacked the first weeks of December and I finally put them, unfinished, on my nearly-naked tree. Then sickness hijacked last week, and I have spent more time Lysol-ing the house and snuggling fevered kids than caring about crafts. That’s not to say that the Nutcrackers have been ignored. They have danced, dangled, and dropped all of December, compliments of my three youngest children. They’ve gone to battle, engaged in meaningful conversations, and lost a shoe or too. They’ve even had their hair trimmed, the little piles of white fuzz still sitting on my kitchen counter.
Last night after the humidifier was going and the sick ones were finally asleep, I wandered downstairs. I saw that some child had decided that Nutcrackers must be social animals because all of them had been moved to the same branch of the tree. They were an unruly, comical sight, and I had to smile after a long day. I thought for a minute about spacing them out around the tree and I even thought about staying up late and finally getting them painted. But I think I’ll leave them alone (until they’re relocated by the next creative burst from my children). Maybe they are a more accurate symbol of the way Christmas should be…totally imperfect.
In my struggle for meaningful experiences for my family, I often fall into the trap of thinking that things need to be perfect in order to be meaningful. I want everyone to laugh and smile as they decorate the tree, keep their fingers out of the icing, and not hit each other in the back seat of the car on the way to do a good deed. I want family visits to be ideal, and meals to look like they did in the magazine. But sometimes my kids throw tantrums on Christmas morning instead of smiling rosy-cheeked for the camera. Instead of gleefully playing with toys, one threw up in her brother’s Christmas stocking two years ago. It is easy to feel disappointed or even angry when things go wrong when we’ve tried to make things nice for our families. But trying to make things perfect usually just makes things stressful and leaves us feeling more like Scrooge than Santa.
Maybe there is no such thing as a perfect Christmas. And maybe that’s good. Maybe the point is, in the middle of it all, to find Peace instead of Perfection. Peace in finding ways to give others joy. Peace in taking quiet time to think about the reality of angels rejoicing over a baby in a manger. Peace in embracing the quirkiness and unpredictability of real life; of giving up the perfect tree in favor of a big clump of unpainted Nutcrackers. Instead of worrying about some illusive image of what Christmas should be, I think I’ll follow their lead. I’ll embrace imperfection and just go snuggle up tight with those I love.
I hope you have a very peaceful, very merry, very imperfect Christmas.