This post is also available in: Deutsch (German)
David’s tears are reflecting in the window glass. “Just ONE door a day, okay?” I hear myself say. It’s the 1st of December and I have definitely said this sentence more times than you can count little doors on the whole advent calendar. The initial joy of the beautiful calendar with its duck-shaped chocolates has worn off and turned into disappointed crying instead.
(For all my non-German readers the “Adventskalender” is a German tradition where children are gifted a cardboard calendar on the 1st of December, which helps count down the days till Christmas and get excited by opening one little door a day, which usually reveals a piece of chocolate, a message or small gift for them.)
“I’m trying so hard to do everything right and make everything beautiful but it just doesn’t work,” I sob quietly.
And yet I had imagined everything to be peaceful: Decorating our Christmas tree together. Festive music playing in the background. A Gingerbread man. Opening the first little door on the advent calendar. Sparkling Christmas balls and children’s eyes beaming. Neighbors standing outside of our window and peering in, envying the harmony and joy our family is radiating.
Fair enough, the last point is a little exaggerated. This is why I feel even more shameful to admit that that’s kind of what I was really secretly hoping for, at least a little bit. I want our family to look so happy and joyful that you can see it from the outside.
Our neighbors from across the street have put up their Christmas decorations as well. An almost human size pair of nutcrackers is standing outside their window. Inside I see jolly children playing around a beautifully decorated Christmas tree.
I resist the urge to move our tree a little closer to the window and shout “Look at us! Our happy family is also lovingly decorating our Christmas tree!”
Instead, David is crying about there not being trucks in the Christmas song that’s playing, I’m stressed about the living room being unbelievably messy, and Timo is upset because he didn’t find the time to work in the garden – again. Why can it not be peaceful here for once?” I say out loud, and silently add “…just like it is for all the other people.”
I continue stalking my neighbors through the window. The fairy lights are shining from their palm tree. Our fairy lights are half lost in the jasmine tree and half broken. Why hadn’t anyone noticed this beforehand? How are others managing their daily routines so perfectly?
After a deep breath (and a big piece of chocolate) I regain my sense of self, and we eventually manage to decorate the Christmas tree together. Delightfully, David places six Christmas balls right next to each other on one branch of the tree. Unfortunately, one of our snow-filled Christmas balls comes apart, and the fake snow spills all over the carpet. And the Christmas music is annoying me for some reason.
Nothing is perfect, and nothing feels perfect either. Especially since I’m upset with myself that I had just had a go at Timo. It feels neither peaceful nor very festive.
Then I see our Christmas balls sparkling in the reflection of our window. David standing proudly next to the oddly, somewhat one-sidedly decorated Christmas tree. But I realize that through the window we must look perfect.
I wonder if our neighbors are also secretly exhausted and tired? If everything seen through the windows isn’t actually as harmonious as it appears? But instead just the normal everyday life of a family. Even if it’s a little insincere, I’m secretly wishing that this is the truth.
Of course, I would love to not care at all what our life looks like through the window. But I’ve probably got a long road ahead of me. Until then, I have to accept that it won’t be perfect every time. That my expectations won’t always be met by the members of my family. That what you see through the windows might not accurately represent the true emotions behind closed doors. And that sometimes it’s not beaming eyes but rolling tears that are being reflected back to us. Christmas through a window is really just a story we’re telling ourselves. A story without sound and background, possibly one dimensional and untrue. And even if it makes me emotional and stressed out at times: I would always choose a genuine family story over a fake one full of harmony and lies. And so I embrace David who’s putting up Christmas ball no 7 on the same branch. Turn the Christmas music back on. Give Timo a hug. And close the curtains.