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Around the country people shop for the perfect Christmas tree. They will walk in and out of tree lots, small children in tow screaming, “this one Mommy!” The real trees will have flaws. Holes in their shape, slightly crooked trunk, and a tendency to drip sticky substances around the house. So off they go to the store, shopping for a perfect shape artificial Christmas tree. It comes pre-lit, you just assemble and add ornaments. While at the store a box of perfectly matches ornaments, 100 count is added. Guaranteed to make the perfect Christmas tree, just like you see in a shop window.

So it’s home again with the perfect tree. No wrestling with the tree stand, or arguing with strings of lights that mysteriously tangled over the last year. Nope, this year it’s going to be a perfect tree. That bow has to go just there, no you can’t put it there! That is wrong. It must be here. Otherwise it doesn’t look like the box. No, those beads need to drape just like the picture. It has to match, otherwise it’s not right. Don’t let the three year old touch it! He’ll ruin the effect! Give me that! I’ll do it, you are doing it wrong!

And so it continues, as the perfect tree is created. No sap on the floor, every bow just so. Just like the picture. Out trot the kids in perfectly matching sweaters, sitting in front of the perfect tree. No don’t fidget! Smile! It’s Christmas, this is the family card. You need to look happy! Now SMILE! The bulb flashes, and the kids race off, tearing off sweaters and bow ties as fast as they can. Mom sighs in frustration and wonders why she can’t have that perfect Christmas.

A few houses over, Dad stumbles in with the tree, dropping needles all over the entry way. Into the stand, watch out for the water! Wait, it’s crooked! No, a little that way, no back this way. Hey sweetie, hold it here for Daddy! Perfect! Thank you. Next to the mass of lights balled up in the bottom of the box, plug them in, mutter rudely as you realize you need new bulbs. Mutter again when the four year old repeats what you just said to Mommy. No perfect decorations here. They won’t work with all the holes in the branches. So drag out the ugly parrot missing a tail Uncle Elmer got in Key West a couple years back. Check out how it fills that hole perfectly. Hmm, maybe add some more colored lights to catch the colors in the ugly glass ball Gramma left us. Next the kids talk you into making one of those cheesy paper chains, and Junior makes a mess when he tangles himself up in it!

The night progresses and as a team you work around the flaws in the tree. The slightly crooked trunk, the holes, the slightly flat side. The star is a bit crooked since your eldest was balanced on your shoulders when you guys set it there. The family plops in front of the tree, the four year old covered in glitter, your eldest with tinsel wrapped around her head, scotch tape on Mom’s sweater, and a footprint on Dad’s shirt. After the bulb goes off, everyone piles onto the couch to watch the tree twinkling in the night.

As the kids drift off to sleep in Mom and Dad’s lap, ask yourself- what is perfection?