My Perfectly Imperfect Christmas

We live in Publix country and I disclose it is my grocery store of preference, partly because I can walk there (though I rarely do since I stop there on my way home from nearly every activity), partly because the store is always clean, the produce fresh, the prices reasonable and partly because most of the employees have been at the store since it opened in our neighborhood eight or nine years ago (there is a lot to be said for staff sticking with a retail employer that long) and they all know me and my kids by now.

I also confess to loving their ads. They truly hit a soft spot. There was the young doctor on call on Christmas ad, the pregnant mom Mother’s Day ad, the “real” Thanksgiving ad that so sums up the chaos and mishaps of preparing the “perfect” meal, and then there is this year’s Christmas ad:

Tissues needed for every. single. one. Each and every time I watch them.

So, yesterday morning, I had to laugh when I finally saw beyond the sweetness of the commercial and saw the ad a little differently. It’s set-up as a Christmas Eve afternoon, the couple are quietly finishing up some decorations, the daughter is helpful and engaged. She suggests making cookies “for him” at the last minute and mom’s a-okay with that. They meticulously cut-out and decorate cookies calmly as the windows darken into evening behind them when the doorbell rings and it’s not Santa, as we anticipated, but Grandpa. Cue the “awwwwwws!”

But wait?

Where was the last minute wrapping? The overexcited and oversugared children bouncing off the walls? The dinner preparation for guests? The realization they forgot something imperative (a gift, a dinner ingredient)? The frantic calls to your spouse who still had to work but was hoping to leave early? The search for shoes, snacks and coloring books in order to get to Christmas Eve services early enough to get a seat and armed with enough distraction for the wait until the service actually starts? The rush to get dinner on the table after services so you can maybe, just maybe get them in bed at a decent hour knowing that they’ll be out of their beds at least 17 times, too excited to sleep?

I do try to keep the reason for the season at the forefront of our Christmas preparations.  We try not to let the chaos take over and truly attempt to revel in the specialness this season provides. I try to keep the magic alive with meaningful family activities in our advent calendar – from ice skating to ornament making to Christmas movie watching to toy donating. But whether the boys want to do an activity on any given day is a toss up and my fridge is currently littered with the activities we have still yet to finish because they’d rather go play football with the neighborhood kids after school.

And that’s okay. I’m happy to let this season play out and have their days as normal as possible with just a hint of anticipation. I know we’ll get to Christmas. I know I’ll stress out at least three more times before now and then. I know I’ll question my decision to host a Christmas Day Open House until about five minutes before the first guest arrives. But I also know my memory of the season will still be their faces when we saw a house insanely lit with tens of thousands of lights, snuggling in a floor fort for movie night, fellowship with friends, Christmas morning snuggles, bourbon and Die Hard with the husband as we wrap gifts, the 5 year old singing Away in a Manger 153 times a day, the 8 year old’s blind belief, and not the rush of how we got there.

Maybe Publix has it right. Maybe they’re showing us the memory, not the reality. After all, we don’t see the chaos of Santa’s workshop, right? Just the joy of the end result. And Santa must only remember the cookies and the wind in his hair as he flies from country to country delivering surprises and magic to children around the world or else how could he do it every year? We don’t remember the pain of Good Friday on Christmas, even though we know how the story ends, we remember the hope of a new life.

So I know that my Christmas Eve reality will look a lot different from the Publix ad (did you see how clean their house was on Christmas Eve? Who are these people?), but it will feel the same. A season of anticipation, doing for others, moments with our children and big hugs. What more could I ask for?

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