Sharon Randall: Christmas perfection
My mother often told me to be careful what I wished for.
“What you want,” she said, “isn’t always what you need.”
I thought of those words as I watched a stream of water roll across my living room floor.
This is a Christmas story. I’ll start at the beginning.
Recently my husband and I were talking about Christmas.
“I want a real tree,” I said.
“Why?” he asked. “What’s wrong with our fake one?”
“You mean, besides the fact that it’s fake?”
“I like that tree!” he said.
I like it, too. We bought it 12 years ago after we moved to the desert and watched three freshly cut pines drop all their needles before we gave up and got a fake one. That was then. This is now.
Six months ago, we moved back to California, to the house where I raised my children and where, every Christmas for 35 years, I had a real tree.
“Who knows?” I told my husband. “This could be my last Christmas. Or maybe yours.”
He narrowed his eyes.
“I want a real tree,” I repeated.
“Fine,” he muttered.
So we drove to a lot, bought a 7-foot fir, took it home and set it up. Then I poured a pitcher of water in the tree stand.
“That’s plenty,” said my husband, the evergreen expert.
“Nah,” I said, “a little more.”
I refilled the pitcher and began pouring again. Then, without warning, the tree stand started to overflow. Like Niagara Falls.
We mopped it up with every towel in the house, then stood dripping, staring at the tree.
“Sorry,” I mumbled.
He ignored me. “We need to slide the tree closer to the wall,” he said, “but the stand is still full of water and it will slosh.”
Then he went running out the door. I wasn’t sure he’d be back. But he showed up minutes later with a bucket and a hose.
“Here,” he said, “put the end of this hose in the tree stand.”
“What are you going to do?”
“I’m going to siphon it out.”
I pictured Chevy Chase in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” proudly plugging in the Christmas lights.
Then my husband got down on the floor and started sucking on the hose, spitting mouthfuls of nasty water into the bucket.
I wish you could’ve seen him.
I tried not to laugh, but he heard me snorting. I won’t repeat what he said when he nearly choked on a fir needle.
An hour later the floor was dry, towels were in the wash and he was speaking to me again.
“The tree smells good,” he said. I grinned. We finished the lights, put the angel on top, fell into bed and slept like the dead.
The next day I added feathered redbirds to the tree, along with bunches of red berries and the snowflakes my grandmother crocheted for me long ago.
Still, it wasn’t quite … perfect.
So today I made garlands out of red plaid ribbon and looped them through the branches.
It’s still not perfect. Neither am I. But it’s done. And I’m done, too. Done decorating. Almost done buying gifts. And totally done wanting perfection.
The lights on the tree are uneven. The snowflakes are showing their age. The redbirds are losing feathers. The berries are falling on the floor. And the garlands are twisted like streamers on a maypole after the dancers got a bit tipsy.
But at least it smells good. I will always remember that lovely scent. And the sight of my husband, bless him, sucking water out of its stand.
My mother was right. What we want isn’t always what we need.
I don’t need a perfect Christmas. I need only the perfect gifts that it brings: Joy and laughter. Family and friends. A baby born in a barn to be the savior of the world. The scent of a real tree. The sound of “O Holy Night” (“Long lay the world in sin and error pining, ’til he appeared and the soul felt its worth.”) And maybe the taste of a few snickerdoodles.
What could be more perfect?
Here’s wishing you and yours a perfectly glorious Christmas.
Sharon Randall lives in Pacific Grove, California.