Sunday, December 16, 2007

the parameters of "perfect"

The Christmas hustle and bustle has begun. People are arriving home on break, trees are being sold, lights are going up. Mat is home, so now on the bed beside me, rather than my papers and an old printer, there are piles of his clothes. (I use his usually-vacant bedroom as my study.) In some ways, things are "perfect": there is lots of snow, the cats are cuddly, we have good music to listen to and good food to eat. But nothing is really perfect, so there have been familial conflicts, arguments and the odd snarl, just to make things interesting.

The other day I was sitting in the living room, knitting away, listening to CBC Radio. It was a program of classical music, about three hours long, one of the ones where the announcer sometimes rambles on about things unrelated to music. This particular time he started talking about Christmas, and how much we want things to be perfect.

"We want everything to be perfect at this time of year," he said. "But it never is, there are usually fights between family members, and someone drinks one too many liqueurs, with the inevitable result, and there's some disaster in the kitchen." He went on to introduce a piece of music by Mendelssohn, which a violinist had insisted was the "perfect" piece of music, and as it played, I thought about what he had said.

He's right -- whether because of pressures within society or within our own families or just within our own selves, holidays of every kind, but especially Christmas, are subject to enormous pressure to be "perfect". But we're never really sure what that means, what the parameters of perfect are. Does it mean all the children will be well-behaved, all the presents will be well-received, and the snow will fall just enough to be pretty but not enough to impair driving? If those are our wishes, frankly, we'd all better get over that idea, because it ain't gonna happen.

I know that simple awareness is not going to erase my desire for a perfect Christmas, but it does help, knowing that it's not possible to reach perfection. That way, the next time my family has an argument, (and like every family out there, it's not if but when), even though I'll be annoyed, I'll remember that this is the reality of Christmas. And even though the snow is fluffy in the fantasy, and the children are quiet and cute, and nobody drinks too much and says embarrassing things, that fantasy isn't real. I'll take the real thing -- dirty pajamas, dusty ornaments, arguments and all. After all, it's the only option I have. And despite how it might look, it's actually much better.

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