Bonnie Brown: The “Perfect” Holiday Experience

We are all in the pursuit of perfection, especially during the holiday season. However, perfection is as elusive as that winning lottery ticket!

Regardless of your holiday traditions for Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, we all strive each year to have the “perfect” experience. I know I used to decorate multiple Christmas trees, decorate every room in the house, and spend lots on wrapping paper and ribbon to have the prettiest presents under the trees. And we all know what happens to that paper and bows, don’t we? After hours of wrapping and using miles of tape, of tying ribbon into photo-worthy bows after having watched enough YouTube videos to last a lifetime, the whole process was over in what seemed a matter of minutes! It almost broke my heart to see all that effort picked up and stuffed into a garbage bag.

Photos courtesy of National Geographic Kids.

It wasn’t enough to have these “things” pretty and perfect; I wanted my family to be perfect too. I wanted them to look their best, exhibit the best behavior, the best attitude, the perfect manners, and have an appreciation for the spiritual celebration of Christmas. Well, you get the picture. Why didn’t they conform to my picture of the “perfect” family?

I wanted the gifts we bought (along with the gifts that Santa brought) to be received with excitement and declared “perfect” by my family members. Oh boy was I ever disappointed! Every year! Sometimes there were duplicate gifts, electronics that wouldn’t perform, games that were simply not to their liking, and of course, the new underwear was the least favorite.

Of course I put a lot of pressure not only on me but my sweet husband too in the food preparation department. So what if the ham was a little dry, or the side dishes didn’t come out on time, or as expected? So what if the pecan pie was a little over-done or the cake layers slipped just a tad and the cake looked like it had been dropped just before it was served?

Perfection is exhausting. We never give up. It’s like the movie, Ground Hog Day, where every day is the same. We double our efforts and yet, it’s nearly the same outcome, year after year with few exceptions. I’ve thought of shaking up our traditions but alas my family doesn’t buy into that notion. I’ve checked out “Southern Living’s” recommendation as to where to enjoy the perfect Christmas holiday. However, a trip to some other destination to celebrate the holidays doesn’t hold much appeal. Changing the menu is out of the question. It’s enough for them to handle that my decorating is very limited these days. We have a small “artificial” tree, placed upon a small table. It is very nice. It is like a “real” tree in that it seems to shed, and I vacuum up “needles” almost on a daily basis.

One tradition that did change early on was our “live” tree. We bought some, we went out into the woods and cut down our tree, it was a tradition. However, about the fourth year of the “live” Christmas tree, we recognized that our young son, Jeff, got sick the next day after we put up the tree. We were a little slow on the uptake, but finally realized that he was allergic to the tree!

So rather than pursuing perfection, take a breath. Be grateful. Count your blessings. Forgive your enemies. Give thanks for your friends. Be more patient. Mind your money. Be thankful for good health. Be patriotic and not political. Do something for those less fortunate. Watch “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Embrace your family and their imperfections.

I hope each of you enjoy a fabulous, average holiday! May your cake turn out better than mine.


Bonnie Brown is a retired staff member of the University of Mississippi. She most recently served as Mentoring Coordinator for the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy.

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