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The Perfectly Imperfect Christmas Gift

Uncategorized Jan 02, 2024

Over the years my husband, Greg, and I have entertained one other with hours and hours and hours of stories of our childhoods—him as a little boy in upstate New York, and me as a little girl in the small river town of Hannibal, Missouri. Greg's recalls sledding down snowy hills on his Flexible Flyer steel-runner-sled, putting together model airplanes (and that unforgettable smell of airplane glue that left you dizzy), and of chasing his very first girlfriend—in kindergarten!  I bend his ear with stories of a young girl stomping in the Mississippi mud, sneaking into cow pastures to jump on cow pies, and playing with the one and only doll I ever loved—Chatty Cathy.

For those of you who've never seen a Chatty Cathy doll, she’s 18 inches tall with blonde hair, blue eyes and freckles, and has a “chatty ring” on her upper back that, that when pulled, allows her to speak. (I was taller and didn’t need someone to pull my “chatty ring” to get me to started, but otherwise, Chatty Cathy and I had a lot in common). I played with her so much that it was inevitable…after hours and hours and hours of chatting, I wore out her “voice box.” But she stayed my trusted companion for years to come, until finally came the day when I traded dolls for rock & roll records, posters and bell bottom bluejeans. 

It’s now Christmas morning, and all the gifts have been passed out—except one. My husband starts to pass the large colorful present to me. He pauses, and describes his gift to me, almost apologetically, as “perfectly imperfect.” I’m puzzled. I tear the wrapping, open the box, push away the tissue paper...and there she is. Chatty Cathy. She looks exactly like I remembered. I quickly check under her hair in the back. There's the “chatty ring”! I pull it. Out comes garbled words and a squawk—just like when my Chatty Cathy’s voice gave out so many years ago—perfectly imperfect. I laugh and say to Greg, “Wabi-Sabi!” 

Wabi-Sabi is a Japanese philosophy used to describe beauty that is imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. Breaking it down, Wabi translates as “understated elegance” or “rustic simplicity” with a less-is-more mentality. Sabi means “taking pleasure in the imperfect.” And so Wabi-Sabi is described as the philosophy of perfectly imperfect (not to be confused with wasabi—which is pleasantly unpleasant). 

An example of Wabi-Sabi is the art of kintsugi. This is the Japanese practice of filling the cracks of pottery with gold lacquer to showcase its beauty of imperfection. And such is my perfectly imperfect Christmas gift.

Chatty Cathy once again sits by my bedside. And while she no longer talks, she communicates so clearly the love and thought put into this precious Christmas present. She silently speaks of the importance of accepting and embracing the imperfections in myself, in my loved ones—and all who are on this life’s journey with me—so perfectly imperfect. 

Over the years my husband, Greg, and I have entertained one other with hours and hours and hours of stories of our childhoods—him as a little boy in upstate New York, and me as a little girl in the small river town of Hannibal, Missouri. Greg's recalls sledding down snowy hills on his Flexible Flyer steel-runner-sled, putting together model airplanes (and that unforgettable smell of airplane glue that left you dizzy), and of chasing his very first girlfriend—in kindergarten!  I bend his ear with stories of a young girl stomping in the Mississippi mud, sneaking into cow pastures to jump on cow pies, and playing with the one and only doll I ever loved—Chatty Cathy.

For those of you who've never seen a Chatty Cathy doll, she’s 18 inches tall with blonde hair, blue eyes and freckles, and has a “chatty ring” on her upper back that, that when pulled, allows her to speak. (I was taller and didn’t need someone to pull my “chatty ring” to get me to started, but otherwise, Chatty Cathy and I had a lot in common). I played with her so much that it was inevitable…after hours and hours and hours of chatting, I wore out her “voice box.” But she stayed my trusted companion for years to come, until finally came the day when I traded dolls for rock & roll records, posters and bell bottom bluejeans. 

It’s now Christmas morning, and all the gifts have been passed out—except one. My husband starts to pass the large colorful present to me. He pauses, and describes his gift to me, almost apologetically, as “perfectly imperfect.” I’m puzzled. I tear the wrapping, open the box, push away the tissue paper...and there she is. Chatty Cathy. She looks exactly like I remembered. I quickly check under her hair in the back. There's the “chatty ring”! I pull it. Out comes garbled words and a squawk—just like when my Chatty Cathy’s voice gave out so many years ago—perfectly imperfect. I laugh and say to Greg, “Wabi-Sabi!” 

Wabi-Sabi is a Japanese philosophy used to describe beauty that is imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. Breaking it down, Wabi translates as “understated elegance” or “rustic simplicity” with a less-is-more mentality. Sabi means “taking pleasure in the imperfect.” And so Wabi-Sabi is described as the philosophy of perfectly imperfect (not to be confused with wasabi—which is pleasantly unpleasant). 

An example of Wabi-Sabi is the art of kintsugi. This is the Japanese practice of filling the cracks of pottery with gold lacquer to showcase its beauty of imperfection. And such is my perfectly imperfect Christmas gift.

Chatty Cathy once again sits by my bedside. And while she no longer talks, she communicates so clearly the love and thought put into this precious Christmas present. She silently speaks of the importance of accepting and embracing the imperfections in myself, in my loved ones—and all who are on this life’s journey with me—so perfectly imperfect. 

 

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