It's that time of year again.....time to decorate for Christmas. But given other scheduling conflicts, it was happening even earlier this year. I sat and viewed the many, many bins with resignation.....with resentment even, perhaps?
This was a LOT of work! Every year, at that crossroad, I momentarily forget how beautiful our home looked once it was elaborately garnished. More importantly, I momentarily forgot the real reason I created the dramatic transformation for our home every year.
I begrudgingly began to unpack the bins. As I unwrapped fragile, keepsake items interspersed with decorations the kids had created at school or even daycare, I began to soften. I began to reflect. And then I came upon The Cow With No Legs, named by my daughter, although "Legless Cow" would be the more logical alternative.
When my daughter, Channing, was 2 and her brother, Zachary, was 5, it became time for my husband Steve and I to start building our own holiday traditions here in Texas. With our families far away in Minnesota and Kentucky, the stress and sheer drain of travel was too much. I put my foot down and was adamant that we start our holidays here. I was the only one left with small children, so I felt it was reasonable that they experience Christmas in their own home. I welcomed any of our family to join us.
My parents decided to come spend that Christmas with us, and I turned to my mother for guidance on establishing traditions. One of my own family's traditions was to allow each child to pick out a new ornament for the Christmas tree. Great idea! So, my mom and my two children set out for Austin, on a venture for the perfect ornaments. We primed them on how exciting it was going to be to pick out their own special ornaments.
It's probably a good time to divulge that Channing was a bit on the unruly side. We coached and coached her on the way to Austin about going into a beautiful store full of breakable items....and her "cherubic" 2-year-old self agreed to keep her hands folded,to look and not touch. We arrived at the mall, located the Christmas store, and reminded the children about our expectations. As we walked in, sheer wonder glided over both of their faces. We walked. We looked. Then suddenly, without warning, Channing grabbed a porcelain ornament of a cow and promptly bit off all four legs. As the shock registered, my first thought was to dig the legs out of her mouth before she choked, whereas my mother just stared, speechless, in outraged disbelief at this primitive display.
"I guess you've chosen the cow then, Channing???" said my mother, unable to keep the sarcasm out of her tone. Zachary, much calmer and careful in his selection, and also very worried about somehow getting caught up in the eminent drama of the moment, perused the store for the perfect ornament. I honestly don't remember what it even was, because the focus was on the Cow With No Legs.
"I don't wannnnnnnnnt the Cow with No Leggggggies!!!!!" wailed Channing.
"Channing, the cow has no legs because you bit them off," I said. "It wasn't ours but now we have to buy it because you wrecked it!"
At that moment, we clearly were all upset. But you know what? We brought that cow home and hung him on the tree. I'm glad in that emotional moment we didn't throw away a "damaged" item. Because, he is a memory. He is a tradition. And he hangs on our tree every year, in all his legless glory. When family and friends come to our home to celebrate with us, his story is told over and over.
Seize the moment and harness it to build beautiful memories. Raise a family that is steeped in tradition - year after year after year of sameness that isn't dry, mundane, or boring but instead the shining example of a solid foundation that instills core values, strengthens precious relationships, and makes us all better, brighter, open and loving.
The Cow With No Legs symbolizes all that for us. See the glory, the richness, that imperfection brings. As I unpack, decorate and prepare for another holiday season, my perspective is yanked back into its rightful place and my heart smiles. Life's blessings surely take some of the oddest forms. Keep an open heart so you don't miss them.