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Veeder: A perfect Christmas includes plenty of imperfections

Our Christmas tree sits between the two sliding glass doors that open to the deck and a hillside covered in white. It leans a bit to the left, and its trunk twists and turns under sporadic branches, the bottom ones sagging and gapping toward the floor.

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I’ve covered this tree in so many sparkly Christmas bulbs, lights and garland that my husband finally told me to stop. “Leave it now. It’s good.”

Upstairs my laundry is scattered across the bed, my suitcase half unpacked from a weekend spent singing songs about winter to crowds of people looking to warm up from the bitter chill that has spread and hung over our state for weeks.

Outside the garage stands half-finished shingles covered in snow, waiting to be placed. The tools are kept warm and within reach in the entryway, where our boots are piled. Snow boots and muck boots and dress boots and cowboy boots.

And then there are the gloves and hats and scarves, piles of them waiting to be grabbed on the way out — so many options, as if we might run out of clothes before we run out of cold.

I’ve hung our stockings from our fireplace mantle, but I haven’t sent a single card.

I’ve been drinking coffee from my snowman mug, but I haven’t baked a cookie.

I’ve browsed the stores and picked out gifts, but I’ve yet to wrap one.

Two years ago, the walls of this house where our wobbly Christmas tree now stands were being put in place. I stood next to my husband and watched our breath freeze in the cold air as the house we had spent years planning came together in front of my eyes.

I imagined our Christmases then as we stood together and shivered, from the cold as much as the anticipation of it all. I imagined stockings hung on the mantle, the smell of hard cinnamon candy stirring on the stove and the lights strung along the staircase. And I pictured our tree, a perfect cedar cut from the hills of the ranch, filling our house with the smell of the holiday, standing proud over a pile of perfectly wrapped gifts.

In this fantasy, I didn’t imagine piles of laundry.

I didn’t think of the piles of boots standing in the entryway or how the endless construction might cut into my plans. I didn’t smell the sawdust or think how many times I might stub my toe on those tools in the process.

And I certainly didn’t picture this crooked little tree.

But as it turns out, the home we built is not a magic gingerbread house that has the capability of transforming us into better versions of ourselves.

No. We are still just us. Two works in progress, living in a work in progress. And no holiday holds enough magic to change that.

But on Christmas Eve, I will invite my family over for pancakes because it’s tradition. And I will probably make the batter too thick, drop an egg or two on the floor and spill the orange juice. I will get out all my dishes, and I will warm the syrup, and we will laugh about it as we eat in our dresses and nice sweaters before the men go out to start the pickups so we can all load up to sing “Silent Night” together with our neighbors at the country church down the road.

Then I will come home to the mess that we left and sit on the chair under that spindly little tree that is doing its best with a husband who is doing his best, and the laundry won’t matter much.

Neither will the unfinished garage, the unmade Christmas cookies or unsent cards.

Because it is Christmas at the ranch, and we both know we’re a little like that imperfect tree we pulled from a bullberry patch at the last minute before dark.

Then I’ll kiss his cheek, snuggle in a bit closer, close my eyes and say that it’s good.

Veeder is a musician and writer living with her husband on a ranch near Watford City. Readers can reach her at