4 Ways to Embrace an Imperfect Holiday

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, many will take aim at that elusive and constantly moving target known as PERFECTION.

We live in a society saturated with images (like the one above) of perfect celebrations in tastefully decorated homes, surrounded by chic, well-dressed friends feasting on a perfectly prepared meal consisting of items you need to Google. So it’s easy to see why we may feel as though we are not enough.

I am here to tell you otherwise and offer a few suggestions on how to roll out the red carpet for friends and family without feeling walked on.

1. Ditch the pretty towels.

I know a woman who is the living, breathing definition of “perfect”. Her home is impeccable from her tied and bowed, pristine, clean children to her (gulp) neatly displayed “pretty towels”.

How does she do it? My favorite “pretty towel” was bleached and left with the image of a ghostly face thanks to my prepubescent daughter’s acne wash. One was torched by my host daughter’s mom when she quickly learned what “gas stove top” meant in English and the others’ fates are too painful to recall.

Needless to say, I am throwing in the towel on “pretty” and maintaining realistic expectations in regards to the ambiance of our highly “loved in” home.

2. Embrace the chaos.

Some of my most memorable holidays are the ones that many would consider “botched”. One year my grandmother Scheib, who kept decorum at all times, was over an hour late to our Thanksgiving dinner due to another high-octane social engagement.

My grandfather, who we referred to as ‘”Pops”, made a lovely cranberry punch that we enjoyed while waiting…and waiting. We discovered later that my Pop’s punch celebrated his Irish roots and had consisted of one little cranberry doing the backstroke in a punch bowl of Bourbon. When my grandmother finally arrived she was appalled to find the other senior matriarch of the family, my 80-year-old Gram, busting out some moves from the Nutcracker in the family room, my Mom desperately trying to scoop up spilled gravy–with a slotted spoon–and my cousin getting emotional over the realization that Tom the Turkey did not die of natural causes.

Remember that the disastrous moments that can and will occur when you entertain, are the ones that will be fondly looked back on for generations.

3. Go to your strengths.

I am a cook so I admit to having a certain level of confidence when feeding the masses. I have dear friends that are literally terrified of entertaining out of fear of not measuring up to some preconceived notion of “enoughness”. To this, I tell them to “Party like a Posey”.

Posey was a philanthropic octogenarian who had ample funds. She would rather leave her mark through her generous giving to local institutions than to throw a lavish gathering. When I assisted her in having her buddies over, she would open up a box of crackers, have me cut off the questionable parts from a chunk of cheese she discovered in the depths of her fridge and have me fill a container with the one and only thing that went into her vodka–ice.

She would then remind me that spontaneous gatherings are the grandest and that the people who love you won’t remember the dusty coffee table, the chipped plate or the other imperfections. They will remember the laughter, stories shared and the time where close friends could temporarily get a reprieve from the craziness of the outside world.

4. Open the door.

Fear not. Open your door to family and friends knowing that you are ENOUGH. Take it from someone who has removed hardened frosting from a spiced pumpkin cake from the jowls of a Corgi and discovered a life-sized portrait of “mom” in black ink on a leather couch created by the artist middle child just before guests arrived.

The probability of perfect is slim to none. What is perfect is the blessing of having the space, the freedom and the means to gather your loved ones around the table. That is more than enough.

MaryMary Helen Darah is an award-winning columnist who has appeared in numerous publications in the Toledo area and beyond. Her column, The Mother of Mayhem, publishes on ProMedica HealthConnect the first of each month.