Fun is Better Than Perfect
The girls had just finished putting the finishing touches on their gingerbread house when disaster struck. The white frosting must have lacked the necessary adhesive. I’d love to say I left out a key ingredient on the homemade icing, but, although it was a long time ago, I can pretty much bet the farm that it was store bought and scooped straight out of a can.
A sugar-coated green gumdrop tumbling off the roof was the first clue of impending disaster, followed by an orange Skittle. Both girls vigorously pressed the candies back into the fluffy white roof. It seems a more gingerly approach was needed.
In the snap of a candy cane, the cardboard-colored walls came down. Our house of confection turned into a house of horrors, looking as if it had been struck by an F5 tornado.
Katherine, around seven at the time, shrieked “Why, why!” And instead of consoling her, I did what any good mother would do; I grabbed the camera (this was before iPhones). Meanwhile, Peyton, three years older, did what she still does when things go south; she laughs.
Peyton and Katherine, now 23 and 19, recently texted me pictures of our doomed gingerbread house. And it reminded me of all the other doomed decorating or baking events that seem to befall us around Christmas. The time our pumpkin pie literally slid out of the dish as we were taking a selfie. Or the tree that fell just last week on our terrace because I’d placed it in a stand that was way too small (and on sale). Or the Christmas when my brother Rob, in the mid-70s, accidentally pushed over the tree as he “helped” my mother place the star on top.
“I give up,” I remember Mom saying, in a mix of exasperation and anger. She actually always seemed frazzled at Christmas. And I see why. Unlike me, she made literally hundreds of homemade lemon cupcakes to give to friends, along with paper mache angels sprayed in gold. She later taught us all, including my children, how to make the angels. But ours looked like victims of the same tornado that struck the gingerbread house: wings askew and nearly decapitated styrofoam heads.
I’m determined to learn how to properly make one of my mother’s angels or bake her cupcakes. Though I’ve been saying this for years now, so who am I kidding? This homemade thing may have skipped a generation. I will have to leave it to my daughters.
And I will remind them of Sheryl Sandberg’s great quote: “Done is better than perfect.” I know it’s not the most positive, but it’s realistic. Things may not look like the cover of Bon Appetit, but at least there’s food on the table.
To this day, my mother still laughs when talking about the Christmas tree fiasco. And seeing that old photo of our collapsed gingerbread house makes me chuckle. It’s a great reminder that hectic, imperfect holidays are the way to go. After all, fun is better than perfect.