The point of diminishing returns

July 13, 2010 § Leave a comment

My mother went through a phase for about 12 years were she attempted to do the “Traditional, Matron, Holiday, Spectacular Meal” for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.   These were the big events where she would plan an elaborate meal, polish the silver, bring out the china and decorate the house with the idea that the family would gather round the big table and bask in the glow of a yawning holiday table straight out of a Victorian greeting card.

Traditional Holiday extravaganza al la my mother's imagination

The reality was always a stressful mess.  Something would burn, something would break, something would be missing.  Tensions would rise, someone would say something stupid and then someone would start crying or stomp out and then someone else would laugh and we would all wonder at how crazy we all were .

I certainly don’t fault my mother for attempting to do this.   It is just the most perfect example I can think of to illustrate a principle  that is really common – overly elaborate visioning.  It is really, really easy to do.  It is especially easy to do in the context of woman’s magazines, homemaking blogs, Home and garden TV shows that present “simple ideas” to create “special memories” and they are all such neat ideas, so cool, they look like so much fun.  But then in reality the attempt to fit in these things becomes overwhelming.  I do this, I look at the tea party or birthday party on someone’s blog and I am sure that I am the worst slacker in the entire universe.

But I know I am not, not really.  I am just like most moms, blessed with too much to do and crippled with a lack of energy, resources and time.  Much like my mom trying to recreate a romanticized idea of  a Holiday dinner from a household with wealth and domestic servants in a different time there is a  disconnect between the resources I wish I had and those I actually do have.   Then there is simply a matter of priorities.

This comes into play with camping.  I might image how wonderful it will be to have steak and corn on the cob with potatoes on dutch oven apple cobblers and watermelon.    Until I have spent a hot day at the lake, have a campfire to attend in 30 minutes and all that clean-up.  Do I really want to spend my time away from home working on such a meal, or would it be more fun for everyone to do foil dinners. Basically I have a tendency to over complicate things.

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