Saturday, December 21, 2013


For the past ten Saturdays, I've participated in weekly celebrations, initiated by Ruth Ayres at her blog,
Ruth Ayres Writes. Be sure to stop over there for a whole lot more celebrations.

My boys are home!
And it's so, so good to
have messes in the kitchen,
and banging until all hours of the night,
and their great big hugs.

Today I'm celebrating us.
We are not a "traditional" family.
And we don't do Christmas in traditional ways.
My boys, especially my older son,
hate the holiday season
And so  I try to keep it kind of quiet.

 I celebrate the Advent
put out a creche,
attend church,
read advent reflections
usually by myself. 

We do a tree
some years
if the boys want to.

I bake cookies.
The boys help
If they want to.

We have presents.
They always want to do that part.

Last Saturday night
the boys got home from school.
I hadn't done any decorating
because I was kind of waiting
to see how they would feel. 
I asked, tentatively
"Anyone want to help
put up the tree tomorrow?"
I was super surprised
when son #2
responded enthusiastically.

Sunday after church
Son #1 was watching football.
Son #2 was playing video games. 
I went out to the garage
to find the tree. 
(I love a real one, but the boys,
for whatever reason
abhor them).
I dragged the tree out of the garage
and across the backyard to the deck
where I got stuck.
It was too heavy for me to carry up the stairs.
I called for help.
Son #2 hefted the tree
and dumped it unceremoniously
in the living room.
Then retreated again
to his bedroom
to play video games.

I took the tree out of the garbage bags
(And yes, I know you are supposed to keep the box,
but ours got destroyed several years ago)
and discovered that somehow,
the lights on our prelit tree
had come off
and were horribly tangled.

I was about half an hour
into trying to untangle them
when son #1 appeared.
"Want help?" he said.
And then he dismissed me.
"I got this," he said.
"Go get the rest of the stuff we need."
And in the ten minutes,
it took me to get the ornaments out of the garage 
Zay had untangled the lights,
and manhandled the tree
into the corner of our living room.
"The top was a little broken," he declared,
"but I just stuck it back on there."

I have learned,
over the past ten years
that his usual methods-
duct tape,
rarely meet my specifications.

In the old days,
I would have protested
insisted on more artistic fixes
but I have learned
that those interactions
are rarely positive.
 So today, I don't check
I say nothing
and we move forward.

I remember my father
spending hours
twisting the lights around branches
carefully positioning them
so the tree would be evenly lit.
I envision a similar process
for repairing our now unlit
prelit tree.

 Zay takes the lights,
pitches them
over the branches
 at the top of the tree
takes five minutes
to make a few minor adjustments
and plugs them in.
"Ok, we are ready for the ornaments,"
he declares
Again, I long to protest
or make a few fixes
but restrain myself.

It is good enough.

"He can do the rest," Zay declares.
gesturing toward the bedroom
where his brother
is still playing Madden.
Despite his protests,
 Zay helps me unwrap a few
from the newspaper coverings
and decides to stay.

Each ornament is a piece
of our short family history. 

The jillion apple ornaments
from my years as a teacher
('Why do people think you want those?"
asks my son, wrinkling up his nose).

The silver pinecones
from my dear friend Cyrene
who sent a box of ornaments
all the way from Maine
for our first family Christmas. 

The football and basketball snowman
and African American angels
From a book club friend
the boys describe as Book Auntie Terri.

A set of cheaply painted
football and basketball ornaments
the boys found one year at the grocery store
and insisted on buying
for our sports-themed
family decor. 

The tree is done
in about fifteen minutes.
I am pretty sure
there is a whole other box
of ornaments
still in the garage.
I ask if I should go get them.
"No," says Zay.
"This is enough."
He pulls out his phone
and takes a picture

 He is happy.

Later Son #2
whose only contribution
was carrying the tree up the stairs
also comes to take pictures. 

And I realize
that in our family
this crooked topped
unevenly lit
scantily decorated tree
really is enough.

Probably more than enough.

And so today I celebrate
our less than ordinary family
with a less than perfect Christmas tree
and an even less perfect mom
who is only beginning to understand
that imperfection
is enough.


Nanc said... crying at the effort the boys made and the smile of you letting them do it their own way. I love your deep respect you have for them. I have learned that acceptance of late with Kelly too. It brings much peace. It will never be quite what I envisioned, but it is enough, more than enough. Next week I'm going to try will be good for me, I'm expecting it! Love and Merry Christmas Carol. xo nanc

Jaana said...

Carol, this was so touching to read. There is meaning in so many small things. Your family did great. The tree looks wonderful. Your story made me think how Perfection came to this imperfect world to give us all hope. Wishing you a joy filled Christmas in an imperfect world with your perfect (perfect because it is yours) family!

elsie said...

I love your approach to everything in this post. Just having them home seems to be enough, everything else is a bonus. I must remember this next week when my son and family come home. Perfection is overrated. Being together is best. Happy holidays to you and your boys. BTW, I think your tree is great.

Margaret Simon said...

It may not be perfect, but it is surely holy. I hope you continue to enjoy this holiday season!

Leigh Anne Eck said...

I think your tree "perfectly beautiful" or "beautifully perfect"...either one works! I am so happy you get this time with your boys. I hope this time together create many new memories for all of you. said...

Carol, what your have written about and what I have begun to embrace is that real and happy are not synonymous with perfect! Perhaps there really is no perfect; rather, there are lots of us who are trying to accept what we cannot change and to change and perfect what we can. I will keep you and all the rest of us - all of us - less than perfect families in my prayers. May your holiday, however imperfect, be one of peace and unity.

Cathy said...

The story flitting up your tree is absolutely perfect. It sounds like everyone found a way to help. Loved the last stanza of your poem. You have packed a lot in there. Enjoy the time with your boys.


Tara @ A Teaching Life said...

That tree looks pretty have such wisdom, Carol. Have a lovely Christmas!

Ramona said...

What a pleasure to read your poem and enjoy your unfolding family story! I insisted that my husband and a visiting friend put our tree up over Christmas (it's fake too). Just having the light glowing in the corner of the room has been enough, but tonight I'll add some ornaments. Have a wonderful Christmas with those man-boys filling your home and heart!

Ramona said...

Oops, I meant to say put our tree up over Thanksgiving.

Mary Lee said...

When will you realize that you are a PERFECT mother -- the Holy Mess kind in Margaret's post :-).

I am working hard to do everything Mom's way while I'm here -- my way can wait. There's much to be learned from letting go.

Merry Christmas to you and your guys!