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Great Expectations

I was sitting in front of the mirror in my bedroom, carefully applying my make-up when Penelope walked in.

“Where are you going?”
“Your Dad and I are going dancing.”
She groaned. “I haaaaaate it when Parker babysits us!”
I always thought of Parker as being the cool big sister and that the kids would love to hang out with her all night. “How come?” I asked.
“Because,” she said in the whiniest voice an 8 year old could make, “Pixie is a whiny-baby. She whines and whines and whines and keeps whining until she finally gets her way. And she ALWAYS gets her way. It’s not fair!”
“Hmmmmm,” I said, “Pixie isn’t the only one we know who whines…”
“I know,” Penelope said matter-of-factually.
“Who else do we know that whines?” I asked while peering at her through the corner of my eye.
“YOU!” Penelope exclaimed.
“Yes, you whine ALL THE TIME!”
“I do? When?”
“Like on Easter… if everything isn’t perfect, you’re going to whine,” she said flatly.
“That’s an example of when I *might* whine. Give me an example of when I *have* whined.”
“Well, there’s just so many to choose from.”
“If there’s so many, name just one,” I said, wondering when I had ever whined.
“Let me think of the best one,” she said as she left the room.

I sat there looking at myself in the mirror wondering if I was a whiner. I was sure I wasn’t and couldn’t think of a single time in my adult life that I had been. That’s when Parker wandered in and saw my expression.

“Am I whiner?” I asked her seriously.
“What? No. You are NOT a whiner.”
“Penelope just told me I whine like Pixie.”
“Oh my God, don’t listen to her. She’s the whiner.”

I told Parker about the conversation I just had with Penelope. After a second, I asked her about the other thing Penelope said… about Easter. If everything wasn’t perfect and all.

“Well, Liz,” I could tell she was choosing her words carefully, which isn’t common with a 13 year old. They came out staggered and slowly. “You do tend to have impossibly high hopes of perfection,” she said apologetically.

‘Impossibly high hopes of perfection.’ Her words stung, though I knew it wasn’t intentional. Just then, Jose walked through the door and asked if I was ready. I was ready. After my conversations with the girls, I needed to let loose and get my dance on. We kissed the kids good-bye and headed to Gruene Hall to see the Old 97’s. I was excited, but still, Parker’s words lingered in my head.
“Do you think I whine?” I asked Jose in the car as we headed downtown. Without hesitation, he said “no,” and I could tell he meant it truthfully. I was relieved. “Do you think I have ‘impossibly high hopes of perfection?'” He drew a breath and looked away. That was the only answer I needed.
Apparently in my circle I’m known for a few key phrases (In no particular order):
– “I support this.”
– “I need a beer.”
– “I just want everything to be perfect.” and
– “Fuck it.”

We arrived at Gruene Hall to a sold out show. The gal at the door checked the guest list, signed us in and stamped our hands. We went to the bar, got a couple of Lone Stars and headed towards the stage. The place was packed and I knew there would be no dancing. Bummer. Following his lead, Jose wove through the crowd so we could get closer to the stage. The gal behind me grabbed my hips and moved my whole body to the left, telling me the flower in my hair obstructed her line of vision. Wow. I may or may not have “accidentally” crushed her toes with my 5″ black patent leather stilettos. Jose wrangled his way backstage and we got some awesome pics. It was a GREAT show!

The next morning my daughter Dallas and I carpooled to work. I was dying to talk to her, she’s always been honest with me. I filled her in on what the girls said to me and asked if she agreed.
“You don’t whine, Mom. I whine. I was whining this morning about getting out of bed and Brandon yelled at me from his room to quit whining.”
“What about having ‘impossibly high hopes of perfection?” I asked.
“Well…” her voice trailed off.
I hung my head and inspected me feet.
“You’re not always like that. Sometimes you just say, “fuck it” and go with the flow. You do both.”
That’s the truth I was after.

Why does ‘perfection’ seem like a dirty word in this context? What is so wrong with striving for perfection anyway? Didn’t we spend our childhood trying to get 100’s on spelling tests? Weren’t we told “practice makes perfect,” “aim high,” “do your best?’ yada yada yada. “It’s a dog-eat-dog world and if you’re going to make it, you have to be better than the rest.” Us Generation Xers weren’t raised with the “everybody is a winner” attitude. We didn’t get ribbons and trophies just for participating. If we lost a soccer tournament we went home with a speech from Coach telling us what we did wrong so we could be perfect at the next game. Oh yeah, and an orange. We always got oranges after playing soccer.

I did have big plans for Easter and yes, I did want everything to be perfect. This would be the first year I was hosting and cooking. I was looking forward to having all of kids there at once. That had never happened before. We invited our nearest and dearest friends, too. I had lists, I had plans. I had the whole menu picked out, bought token gifts for the big kids, color coordinated the baskets and eggs for the little kids and hit up Hobby Lobby for all the materials I needed to make everyone an Easter basket. This was going to be perfect. Yes, I have visions in my head. I knew how I wanted everything to go. I chose gifts that I knew everyone would appreciate and picked their favorite colors just for them. I used scrapbook paper, Modge Podge, and matching ribbons for the baskets. They came out perfect.

I bought all the groceries for my perfect meal and knew just what I wanted. My friend Angie (an amazing photographer) was coming over to take perfect pictures of my perfect family. This Easter would go down in the books. All 10 kids would remember this forever and my first attempt at hosting an Easter party for the family would be stress-free, problem-free, and care-free. It would be perfect.

Except it wasn’t.

I had told all the guest to arrive at 1pm. We began cooking the night before and I thought I would get off work at 10am on Easter Sunday. I didn’t. By noon I called my daughter Dallas and asked her to go to my house to finish the food. I was already in tears. Nothing was going as planned. My other daughter Mikayla said she was going to be late. I still hadn’t showered or done my make-up and the family pictures were on my mind. Parker had helped me make the baskets and Brandon helped stuff the eggs. When you have tons of kids, you have tons of help. My boss let me leave at 12:30pm and I sped home. I raced in the door, put Dallas to work on the deviled eggs, put Parker to work on the green beans, kissed Jose and said, “I need a beer.” After cracking a Lone Star, I changed into my yellow Easter dress, put a flower in my hair, slapped on some make-up and hurried to the kitchen. Things were in full swing with kids running around everywhere. My grandson Lyric was already jumping on the trampoline, neighborhood kids, my kids, my step-kids, and my friends kids were on bikes, skateboards, scooters, and my heels. I made a proclamation that you had to be at least 16 years old to be in the kitchen. I heard someone say, “I support this,” and I smiled. I’m rubbing off on them. Perfect.

We were *supposed* to have friend chicken, mashed potatoes, fried okra, green beans, spinach & strawberry salad, deviled eggs, pasta salad, baked beans, dinner rolls, and apple pie. I forgot to make the spinach salad and okra. Dallas and I destroyed the eggs while we were peeling them so our deviled eggs looked especially devilish. Jose fried the chicken to perfection. Naturally. While the younger kids were eating, I sent the older kids out to hide the eggs. I had begun to relax. Few things were going as planned, but everybody was there and enjoying themselves. That’s what mattered. When we were all done eating, Angie grabbed her camera and we all headed outside for the coup de gras! Starting with the cascarones, (confetti eggs for you Yankees) the kids chased each other around the backyard as it rained brightly colored tissue paper everywhere. The adults kept a safe distance at the patio table while the teenagers watched from the trampoline. I watched everybody else and there were smiles all around. Perfect. When the cascarones were gone, we let them hunt for their colors. Dallas and Ray helped Lyric “find” his orange eggs. He picked up the first one and tried to crush it on Ray’s head. Lesson learned. Egg hunt first, then cascarones. Not perfect, but seriously funny. Once all the eggs were found, Angie set us up for some family photos under the tree. I had ‘impossibly high hopes of perfection.’ Lyric began to cry. Trying to get that many people to sit still and smile at the same time was a daunting task, but you know what? I think the photo came out pretty perfect, don’t you?

Maybe everything didn’t jive with the visions in my head. Maybe the food didn’t come out just as I expected it, and maybe things didn’t go the perfect way I envisioned them to, but we had a wonderful time. We were surrounded by the people we love and the people that love us back. My Great Expectations were realized. Maybe perfect doesn’t mean that things go exactly the way you planned. Maybe the idea of perfect in my head wasn’t perfect at all. While we were celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus, I was praising Him for showing me that Perfect Love is what it’s all about.