Road Signs For Success

By Paula Lau

Standing in line at the local market my eyes take in all the wonderfully designed holiday magazines. Each graced with a beautifully set dining room table or perfectly coifed Christmas tree. These magazines are filled with ideas on how to decorate everything from sugar cookies to the family dog. Every year the temptation to try and create the perfect holiday setting for my family arises again and a certain amount of guilt ensues knowing that my sugar cookies will most likely just have a plain, pastel colored frosting on them instead of a miniature work of art.  My tree will sport ornaments of all shapes and sizes with nary a pattern amongst them. My wrapping paper will be leftover from the last several years with designs and colors that only vaguely go together.

Nevertheless, my family began discussing past holidays spent together and overwhelmingly the Thanksgivings and Christmases that we remembered most were far from perfect. I remember one Thanksgiving as a teenager when Nebraska had already grown bitterly cold. I walked in the bathroom to find my 7 year old brother sitting on the counter next to the sink with his feet in a basin of hot water. This in and of itself was not so unusual. In the cold winter days of a northern climate you have to figure out ways to return warmth and circulation to cold feet. However, the thing that was unusual? My brother was using my toothbrush to clean his feet! Of course the question arises, how many times before this particular incident had he done this without my knowledge?

My mother was adamantly against artificial Christmas trees. I don’t know if she had been traumatized at some point in her earlier years by an errant, imitation pine, but each year she and dad would trudge through the countryside to find the perfect tree. We children remember a whole series of trees that were far from perfect. There was the guide wire Christmas tree. It was rather short, so it was placed on a table anchored by four wires to the various corners of the room that kept it upright and straight. Then there was the Christmas bush. Again a short tree, but what it lacked in height it more than made up for in girth. It took up roughly half of my parent’s not insubstantial living room. Probably my favorite though was the year they got a tree that was too tall. I’m pretty sure my dad may have been partaking a little too much of the eggnog (if you know what I mean) and instead of cutting off the bottom of the tree, he cut off the top! Even then there was no space between the newly trimmed treetop and the ceiling so our Christmas tree angel had to sit strategically on a branch slightly below its usual place of sovereignty.

This year brought its own special memories. My husband Rick and I celebrated our 20th year of marriage…in the emergency room on Thanksgiving Day. His appendix decided that it was time to come out. We spent a merry day running around the Nebraskan country side. We first went to a small, local hospital to confirm that it was indeed appendicitis and then on to a larger hospital an hour and a half away to have the surgery performed. Was it a perfect holiday? Absolutely not. Will we remember it? You betcha.

The best made holiday plans don’t necessarily result in the most memorable holidays. You don’t know what it is that you will remember or what your children will remember. But it is the remembering that somehow becomes a part of us and our story. It makes us who we are. Enjoy the holidays, don’t worry if everything does not go according to plan, and make a memory. 

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