Imperfect Gifts

This morning was a good morning.  My toddler slept in.  By the time I went to wake him up, his sleepy baby eyes bleary and blinking, I had already showered, prepared his breakfast, and packed my own lunch.  As I changed his diaper and dressed him, I cooed and patted, laughed, and kissed.   He smiled and cuddled me.   While I fed him breakfast, I made up silly oatmeal songs:  “Yummy yummy oatmeal, slides in your tummy tummy.  Nummies, nummies, nummies….”  His wide mouth grinned, he showed me his eight perfect little teeth, and he giggled and giggled while he gummed his breakfast.

When we got into the car to leave for daycare, my Louis Armstrong Christmas CD was playing, and we rocked out to Cool Yule, dancing and snapping our fingers.  I sang at the top of my lungs, even improvising during the trumpet solo.  I need to stop here and make something perfectly clear.  I can’t sing well.  I really can’t sing well and be enthusiastic at the same time, so this Louis Armstrong Christmas extravaganza was thoroughly unpleasant on the ears.  Most of the time, I start in an octave that I can’t maintain and have to switch a few times mid-song to keep up.  It was an off-key, shrieky, messy, joyful, musical yawp.  And the baby loved it.  He loved it.  He laughed, he squirmed, he joined me in high-pitched merry-making.  By the time we got to daycare, I was crooning “I’ve Got my Love to Keep me Warm” as I cuddled him in his puffy coat and paused to nibble on his chubby be-dimpled cheeks.  “I need no over-coat, I’m burning with loooooove…”  He snuggled into me and laughed.  We danced into daycare together–a chubby middle-aged foster mom in leggings and Skechers, and a bundle of mischievous joy in mis-matched socks.    He didn’t care that my musical gift to him was imperfect.

On Monday, I took my mom and dad to the airport after spending Thanksgiving together.  Before we left, my dad took me aside and whispered “Let’s stop for lunch on the road, my treat.  We’re going to Denny’s.”  Dad loves Denny’s.  He gets a 10% senior citizen discount, and they make pancakes with gluten in them–a rare treat for him in my parents’ celiac-safe house.  Honestly, I don’t love Denny’s as much as he does.  “Sure dad, that sounds great.”  He was so happy with this gift to me.  A few extra minutes together, doing something he enjoyed, and treating me to a lunch out.  He starts radiation therapy for the second time this year today.  Every few extra minutes with him seems precious to me these days.  And I will smile every time I drive up the highway and pass that Denny’s sign–a visual reminder of my dad’s perfect imperfect gift to me.

Last week, I tried to figure out how I could manage the holidays this year–two new foster kids, worries about my dad’s health, finishing up a really busy semester, and juggling a couple of articles I’m getting out for publication–I’m honestly not sure what I can handle.  Presents and stockings, certainly.  Can I handle getting a Christmas tree up on my own with a toddler in tow?  I just don’t know.   Then my friend called:  “Hey, we’re going to a Christmas tree farm.  We thought you guys could come with us, and pick out a tree, then we’ll cut it down, haul it to your house, and help you set it up.  Does that sound fun?”  It sounds perfect.  Like being surrounded by people who love me and these beautiful kids is the most perfectly imperfect holiday I can imagine.





  1. Troy Cline says:

    Beautiful, Karen. Thank you for this gift to BCC readers. It’s a wonderful start to a Christmas season where we can all think about the imperfect gifts that we have received from others and the imperfect gifts that we have to give to our God; each in similitude of the very perfect gift of his Son’s grace.

  2. Bullseye…thank you.

  3. Hope Wiltfong says:

    Love this. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Thank you.

  5. Thank you, Karen. This post was in fact the perfect gift for me.

  6. I am so happy for you Karen. Thank you for this lovely essay. May your Christmas be merry and bright.

  7. Great story, seeing the umor in a stressful situation!

  8. Thanks for this. I’m in my 30’s but recovering from a broken hip. This year will be an imperfect Christmas but I’m fine with that so long as my family and I are together.

  9. So beautiful! Thank you for sharing this with us

  10. Simply perfect.

  11. Kevin Barney says:

    Wonderful. (And yes, perfect.)

  12. I tried to comment yesterday, but couldn’t think of anything to say that would match this. Thank you, Karen; as everybody has said, this is thoroughly lovely.

  13. This is excellent, Karen. Thanks for writing and sharing it.

  14. Beautiful. Thanks for sharing – I hope you and your family have a lovely holiday.

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