An Imperfect Christmas

Christmas tree

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In a leading women’s magazine I read, the struggle to create the perfect Christmas for our brood, is within the top 3 stresses for mothers during the holidays.  Unknowingly, I’ve thrown myself into the deep Santa sack of perfectionism since baby Nicklaus shattered his first ornament. Why is it so hard to slow down and smell the Frazier fur?

When I recall the Christmas’s of my childhood, I know my mother didn’t struggle for perfectionism, for as a child Christmas unwrapped itself, little by little, surprise after surprise.

I often describe to my boys Christmases in Virginia, and to them, a Carter Christmas is as foreign as the hood. When I tell them, we didn’t buy a tree, we found a tree, their eyes light up, as they imagine me dressed in black, hoisting my stolen tree on my back, while blue lights chase me.

“You mean you were a thief?” Their eyes sparkle as I transform into “Gangsta Momma,” in their imaginations.

Rise and walk to my Christmas past.

Momma bundled Brandon (my brother) up, armed him with an axe and sled, and said, “Take the dogs with you. There’s wild animals in the woods, and they will keep you safe.”

Flanked by our large dogs, he dragged his sled across the farming field and disappeared into the woods.

An hour later, Momma posted me by the window. When I could see the speck of brother emerge from the trees, we threw on our coats to help him pull the tree home. I am so thankful, for my country Christmases.

Although, there was a year, I wasn’t so thankful for our forest chopped Christmas tree. The morning after we trimmed the tree, we awoke to find tiny bugs covering our ceiling. I was horrified when my Momma gleefully announced, “We have visitors to share Christmas with us. Aren’t they cute little Praying Mantas? They must have hatched during the night.”

“Momma, how are we going to kill all these bugs?”

“Kill them?” Momma laughed. “They’re the good bugs. It will make our Christmas special. Besides, Christ shared His Christmas with barn animals, I think we can share our’s with bugs.”

The woman who shot the head off two chickens with one bullet, because they pecked her azalea beds, now wanted to invite hundreds of praying mantas as extended stay guests. My experience told me Praying Mantas were evil pinchers, no matter how holy Momma thought they were.

Let’s just say, I worked through my fear, and one by one our guests fell to their death, and spent their eternity in a disposable vacuum bag.

My parents lack of perfection made our Christmases perfect. Although, they never allowed us to believe in Santa, for fear we’d lose our faith and focus on God, our Christmases still held a sense of mystery, without the jolly, fat intruder.

My siblings and I crept in the dark to peek in our stockings, which was the only thing we were allowed to open, while my parents slept. Sometimes Momma forgot our stockings.

I tugged on her nightgown. “Momma, you forgot our stockings again!” She rolled out of bed and made her way into the kitchen.

Opening the refrigerator, the glow illuminated our faces, and our mouths watered imagining what special treat could be in the fridge. We opened our stockings.

Plop…plop…I felt the treasure slump heavily into the sock.

“Tangerine for you…apple for you…nuts for you…” She dolled out the groceries “Enjoy. I’m going back to bed. No opening your presents.” Our mouths gaped open, as we watched her scuffle back to bed. We knew better than to complain. Since we never knew what to expect, when our stockings brimmed with new crayons, play dough and treats, we were thrilled.

My favorite Christmas gift came unwrapped. There were two of them looking up at us cuddled together on the garage floor.

“I found them in the classifieds. The father is a wolf.” My mother explained. “He attacked my car. You should have seen his teeth! The owner had to pull him off of me.” She laughed. “Aren’t they adorable? I won’t have to worry about my children with these dogs around.”

They were what we’d call today, “Goldiwolves”. When I say puppies, I mean HUGE puppies, for they spilled off our laps. Their paws covered the palm of my hand, and Momma never once thought they’d attack us. We named them Brutas and Bear. Everyday after school, we rushed home to play with our hybrids. Sometimes the greatest gifts come in the most surprising package.  Fortunately for us, our dogs personality tilted on the Golden side.

What I don’t remember about my childhood Christmases is my mother having everything perfect for guests. Our home was opened to missionaries, family, friends, and neighbors. Our Christmas was filled with laughter, fellowship, carols, ugly Christmas cookies and mismatched wrapping papers. Our Christmas ornaments were handmade, and our Christmas tree never quite stood straight.

With all the imperfections of Christmas, the perfect gift always found it’s way into the center of our home, conversations, and thoughts; the perfect gift of Jesus Christ, whose birth in a stable surrounded by animals, and lying in a feeding trough, was as imperfect as you could get.

I’ve decided for the rest of my holiday I will not fuss over broken ornaments, or stress over dirty floors. I will breathe in the aroma of the Frazier fur, and keep my heart on the imperfect birth of a perfect Savior. May you have a blessed Christmas.

December 2010

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