Sunday, June 05, 2005

It's perfect!

I'll freely admit that I am a perfectionist - in some things, that is. Not in cooking and not in housekeeping, where I will ignore defects in the "finished product." In grammar and spelling and punctuation, however, I demand absolute perfection. No apostrophe where it shouldn't be, and its corollary, an apostrophe where it should be - that's one of my mottos.

Excepting grammar, I have come to realize that sometimes it's hard to determine when something is perfect. Other times, I just feel it. When I create a poem for a homemade greeting card, my rough draft is edited many times before it is finalized. I can't put my finger on it, but I just know when it's perfect. Sometimes that perfection is achieved in a few minutes; sometimes it takes days.

As a quilter, I have always treasured the quilter's tradition of having a deliberate defect or error in an otherwise perfect quilt. According to tradition, the error is a reminder that only God is perfect. Of course, I joke that my quilts contain more than the required defects, and they are definitely not on purpose!

Ed told me once the word "perfect" as used in scripture ("Be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect") means not the definition we assume, but means to be whole, complete. To be as it is supposed to be.

Caroline was over here on Friday. She continues to fascinate me in everything she says and does. I feel as if I am growing up all over again with her. (If I let myself loose to act as a kid, though, I am painfully reminded that I am an adult. Those climbing maze-like structures at the playground are definitely not made for a 50-year-old body!) Caroline loves this house. She loves the stairs, she loves the bow windows where she can wave goodbye to her mama, she loves the fact there are so many places to explore.

One of Caroline's favorite pastimes is to play with stickers. By "play," I mean she peels a sticker off its sheet of origin and sticks it on another piece of paper. I think she finds the challenge in this consists of being able to peel the sticker off in one piece without a tear and being able to adhere the sticker permanently to the paper and not her finger. On Friday, she found some stickers in her toybox here, expressed her usual joy over the discovery, excitedly accepted the green sheet of paper I offered her, and got down to business. I helped her peel off the first sticker. After she admired its beauty (which in itself made me chuckle; it was a gargoyle from Hunchback of Notre Dame), she transferred the sticker onto the green sheet of paper. Once it was secure, she inspected it, smiled, and said, "It's perfect!" For the next 15 minutes, she repeated the process, peeling each sticker off its sheet of origin and transferring it to the green sheet, and with utter satisfaction, saying, "It's perfect!" Of course, it wasn't perfect. Some stickers were torn. All were placed in a crooked manner. There was no rhyme or reason to the layout. But to Caroline, the whole thing was perfect. It reminded me so much of Genesis, where after creating the world, God looked at it and said it was good.

The scene was repeated in a way later when she sat on the steps to take off her sandals to prepare for her nap. She took each shoe off, then held her little feet out and wiggled them.
"Perfect!" she said. She reached down and pulled one foot close to her face and inspected it closely. She turned it over to look at the bottom. She did the same thing with her other foot. Then she put her feet together and wiggled her toes. "Perfect!" she repeated with enthusiasm. "I LOVE MY FEET!"

We're trying to get the house perfect so that a potential buyer will fall in love with it. Of course, it will never be perfect, and it is truly far from it. There are some things we will never fix because doing so would cost too much money. One room is a testament to the fact that paint has its limits in beautifying cheap paneling. The carpet we bought to replace the paint-stained carpet in the hallway was installed because it was inexpensive, not because of its color. We tried to clean out the dirt-floor basement yesterday, and I dare say that whoever looked at it would be amazed that we had accomplished anything, because it still looks like it needs a bulldozer.

Yes, this house will never be perfect. We can fall back on the old line that its imperfections give it character. We can remind ourselves that, after all, the house is over 100 years old. Every time I walk through certain areas in the house, I see more that we should/could do. Nothing is ever finished. The task of getting the house ready to sell will never be completed to our satisfaction.

Not to worry. Caroline loves this house just as it is. And she has high standards!


Matt James said...

Sarah and I loved that story of Caroline's day at your house! She's so cute!

As for your post on perfection, I've been thinking a little about this topic as well over the last month or so. I'm stuck on this idea of "quality" which in the ultimate sense means perfection, or does it?

I'm often reminded of a talk I heard one of my heros Donald Norman give on Emotional Design. He said that in his research people found things to be beautiful for many reasons. When describing one reason he talks about asking people to bring out their favorite possessions (especially ones that they think are beautiful). Often, they will bring out something like a chipped tea cup or a worn bag. Each of these to an observer might be construed as defected, but to the owner, they were cherished because each crack or scratch told a story. Norman called this "Reflective Design".

As you said, "its imperfections give it character". I think this holds quite a bit of truth.

As the Serenity Prayer goes: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference."

I would say: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things that don't need changing, courage to change the things that do, and wisdom to know the difference."

Tif said...

How did our family get blessed with such good writers???? Carol & Matt, you both make me jealous.