The day had gone bad and the evening wasn’t getting better.

The garbage disposal had completely stopped working the day before because a small piece of metal from a pair of tongs had fallen down the drain and gotten hopelessly caught in the mechanism. So we had food debris and water backed up in our sink, and dishes piled to the ceiling. And since our dryer had broken recently, and we had already spent time dealing with that, it was especially exasperating.

What is going to break next? I wondered.

And the defunct garbage disposal was just the tip of the iceberg. Messes—including random paperwork and Christmas decorations the kids had dredged up from the basement without asking first—were piled high around the house. The kids had been bickering a lot, bringing out the worst in me. To make matters worse, my husband had been mostly absent all week, stressed about his work deadlines.

Because I had made the mistake of signing three kids up for a new basketball league with December weekend games, we still hadn’t had time to put up our tree and it was already mid-December. The kids were begging and begging for a tree.

My dream every year is to go to a scenic, festive tree farm that smells like pine-scented heaven, and cut down a fresh tree. I love this. I always look forward to it. But it’s my fault I signed up for that basketball league. And I couldn’t help my husband’s work deadlines. So I was resigned to go to a big box store with the kids and get one there.

I loaded the kids up in the car and we headed to Costco, which is likely the most unromantic place in the world. Of course, as luck would have it, on this terrible-horrible-no-good-very-bad day, I forgot to bring gloves.

So there I stood, alone, with arms extended, trying to tie the tree to the top of our van. My fingers gradually lost all sensation due to frigid temperatures. I finally decided that my knot-job would have to do or else I would risk frostbite. So we headed home to our piles of messes to put up our Christmas tree.

All I could think about was the work that had to be done.

Later, I tried to have a good attitude as I read a daily advent passage to the kids during dinner. But then my husband came home and his attitude wasn’t great. The kids said, “Dad! We are putting our tree up tonight!” He said, “Ugh. I hate December. It just means all this extra stuff to do that I don’t really want to do and don’t have time for.”

Yes. He actually said that. I shot darts at him with my eyes and said, “Don’t tell them that!! They still love Christmas and aren’t jaded yet, like us, with our adult-world problems!!!”

At that point, I may or may not have left and went upstairs. On my way back down, quite a while later, my 10-year-old brought me my phone on which she had taken a family video. She was so excited to show me.

I sat on the stairs and disbelievingly watched this video. It was the most perfect Norman Rockwell family Christmas video imaginable. My husband had somehow managed to get the tree on the stand in record time. He stood next to the tree in the video with our youngest child on his shoulders, trying to put the star on top. The kids are all laughing and twirling and saying happy things. Their hearts are full of Christmas cheer and there is excitement in their eyes. In the video, there are no problems, no messes, no backed-up kitchen sinks. There is only Christmas joy and the beauty of childhood.

The children decorating our Costco tree.

This is how history gets rewritten, I suppose. A decade from now we will watch this video and we won’t remember the frozen fingers as I loaded the tree alone, the stress at the office, the broken garbage disposal, the piles of messes around the house. We won’t remember how tired we were. We will only remember the adorable children and how excited they were to celebrate Christmas. We will miss having such young, precious children in our home.

This video was a wake-up call to check my attitude and try to see things the way my kids do more often. Maybe that’s why God gave me kids: to see the wonder around me when otherwise I would not see it.

I’m going to try to finish up this Christmas season with more joy (though I’m sure crossing my fingers that there are no more broken appliances).

Merry Christmas, everyone!


Photo Credit: Graphic design by Anna Soltis. Following image courtesy of author.