Mom never seemed completely happy with her tree. The tree I remember from my childhood had colored lights and an array of ornaments. She didn't like tinsel or flashing lights. To me, our tree always looked perfect, but to Mom it just looked alright. It was too crowded, or too sparse, or maybe it was lopsided or crooked at the top. Where I saw perfection, Mom was a realist.
Tonight as I decorated the tree, carefully hanging the ornaments Mom held on to for all of these years, I wanted it to be perfect. But Gabe was clingy and whiney, still recovering from the flu. Kiara puked several times in the course of my decorating, and rather than helping me trim the tree as I envisioned, she curled up in a ball and watched, occasionally complaining that she still felt so sick. But now, the kids are in bed, hopefully recovering from this stomach bug, and I'm gazing up at Mom's tree. She would say it looks nice, although maybe a little plain. I shake my head and think of the Ralph Waldo Emerson quote: "Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could." In that case, today was perfect.
And then David and I both started puking. Reality within perfection.