"We grow too soon old and too late smart."
- Dutch Proverb
The "Good Enough " Christmas of 2011 was originally my oldest daughter's idea.
Her concept was detailed in a phone call the day after Thanksgiving.
"Dad, we'll fly down from New York only if you promise that you and Mom won't go crazy trying to create a perfect Christmas like you usually do. I can't stand the stress and neither can you two. Let's have a good enough Christmas!"
I said yes, without too much thought as to how a "good enough" Christmas might unfold.
As it turns out, the "Good Enough" Christmas was, well, pretty darn great, so I pass along the "how to" for those readers who may tend to take it over the top annually themselves.
Perfect Christmas shopping historically involved trips to malls and aggressive begging for boxes so each gift could be individually wrapped, perfectly, in a pre-determined color coordinated theme so they all look pretty under the tree.
"Good Enough" Christmas 2011 shopping took place on a laptop via the internet while I watched the Carolina Panthers actually win. If the vendor offered gift-wrap for less than $5, they got to do so, as long as I could put more than one item in a box.
Free shipping was pretty much universally offered this year, so for those presents where gift wrap was either not available or too costly, "bag-it!" became our slogan.
Gift bags have replaced sliced bread as the greatest idea in my hierarchy. Wrapping cycle time was reduced from 5 or 10 minutes per gift to a matter of seconds.
On Christmas morning, the front hall around the tree looked like a kaleidoscope had exploded. Multiple paper patterns clashed merrily with images of reindeer, angels and trees on bags of every hue. Joyful chaos that ensued.
A sub-clause in my daughter's nonnegotiable ultimatum was "... and please don't go overboard on the girls."
For Perfect Christmas 2010, we had given our granddaughters Barbie's Jamming Jeep, a playhouse and multiple dolls.
I'll concede she had a point. When you provide a 5-year-old with a house and a car, what do you do for an encore?
The highlights of Santa's bounty for "Good Enough Christmas" were a fishing pole, roller skates, a candy molding kit and satin superhero capes emblazoned with "Katie" and "Annie."
What was wonderful was that we got to enjoy fishing, skating and candy making with the super-girls all in the same day.
One of the key factors that let us play with our grandchildren and enjoy the company of all of our kids was that we weren't chained to the stove creating perfect holiday meals.
On a particularly lunatic Perfect Christmas past, we prepared a standing rib roast with all the trimmings on Christmas Eve, chased it with freshly made scones, crab cakes and shrimp 'n' grits for breakfast, then turned around and prepared a Christmas dinner of turkey, ham and scratch-made macaroni and cheese for the relatives. We finished cleaning up that year just in time for Easter.
This year, embracing the "good enough" Christmas concept, we made a giant batch of spaghetti sauce and froze it. We brewed an enormous cauldron of minestrone and left it to simmer while we picked up the New Yorkers at the airport on the 22nd.
We ate minestrone four times, penne à la Bolognese three. Waterford crystal remained in the cabinet, and Solo cups with your name in permanent marker were used for all dining evolutions. We went through six loaves of La Brea bread. Everyone raved about the great meals.
Instead of primping, prepping, cooking and endlessly cleaning up, we were able to sit in the living room and sing songs, watch a wonderfully nonlinear Christmas pageant and, most important, enjoy our family.
For a few days, the "good enough" celebration caused us to slow down and enjoy the gift of time when we could focus on what is really important. It was the best Christmas ever.