When best laid Christmas plans fall apart

Published 10:01 am Monday, December 10, 2012

Column: Something About Nothing

But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane [you aren’t alone]

In proving foresight may be vain:

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The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men

Gang aft a-gley, [often go awry]

An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,

For promised joy.

— Robert Burns

Robert Burns wrote this poem after plowing a field and upturning a mouse’s nest. He wrote this poem as an apology to the mouse.

That phrase “The best laid schemes o’ mice and men” has been turning in my brain all week. It has brought me laughter because that so describes many of the things that I do.

Recently, I was the speaker at Zion Lutheran Church for the women’s Christmas event. I had everything all planned out to a tee. My subject was “The Bells of Christmas.”

At one point the idea was to throw small bells out into the audience and have them ring their bells of Christmas.

I picked up some cute bells in a dollar store. (Sorry, I am so cheap.) The bells came in a package like the ones hung on a tree. I assumed that these bells were separate, like on a tree. You also know what they say when you assume.

As I was getting ready I dumped the bells out of the package into a Christmas bag, not paying attention to see if the bells fell separately. I always get a little nervous before speaking so I was more concerned about what I was going to say, not what I was going to do. That was a big mistake. I should have learned from my past.

You see I have a past with “the best laid schemes o’ mice and men.”

Many years ago a friend and I were doing a skit in church to publicize Bible school. The theme was “Share the Good News.” We dressed as clowns, made a big sheet banner stuffed half in my clowns’ leg pants and half in hers. We were attached by this banner. The plans were to run up the aisle, and she would grab a newspaper out of her clown pocket, rip the newspaper in half and share it with me. We would then unroll the banner stuffed in our pants that attached us to each other.

We ran down the aisle, got to the front of the church, she looked for her newspaper, and there it was, halfway back down the aisle. She got so excited because she dropped the newspaper that she forgot we were attached. She ran down the aisle to the newspaper ripping our sheet banner in half.

When she got back, we shared the newspaper and then tried to display our banner. It took us awhile of funny contortions to actually get the torn banner right so that we could display it so people could read it.

By this time the pastor was laughing so hard he couldn’t read what he was supposed to read about Bible school. Yes, the best laid plans. However, I always said God was watching and his plans for our disaster worked out better than anything we could have ever planned. It got people’s attention.

Now back to the present.

I started my talk. It was time to throw the bells into the audience. I grabbed the bells in the bag and was going to toss them one by one. They were attached to each other.

How had I not noticed that? In the flurry of the talk I decided that it was no big deal, I would just tug the bells’ cords apart. I did this and started throwing them. They fell apart in mid air and pieces of the bells flew through the air. The best laid plans. Apparently I didn’t lay those plans very well.

In the spirit of the season I decided to go with the flow. Maybe that was the way things were supposed to turn out. After all I was in a church, and we are told never to worry about anything, so I didn’t. I continued on with my talk.

Yes, the best laid plans in our lives don’t always go as smoothly as we would like. During this season of the year we plan and plot. We plan our Christmas dinners; we spend time finding the perfect presents for the people in our lives that we care about. We prepare and we plan.

There have been years where our preparations and holiday has been turned topsy-turvy by the weather, illness and maybe disappointment that not everyone liked the present we bought them or the meal we cooked. Perhaps we were expecting something that Santa left for us under the tree, and it didn’t happen. Perhaps we didn’t hear from someone we had counted on. Yes, the best laid plans do not always go the way we want.

There were many years when my son couldn’t make it home for the holidays. I was devastated, and I spent part of the holiday crying. Then there were the first years when we had to share our children with their in-laws and we were alone on Christmas. I made myself miserable until I relaxed and decided to go with the flow and find humor in my plans being disrupted the way I thought they should go. I found out that perhaps they turned out better when I didn’t have such cut-and-dried plans.

If the tree falls over, the wreath falls off the house, the cat attacks Santa and you receive a lump of coal in your stocking, remember the best laid schemes o’ mice and men may be orchestrated by a power greater than us and they may be better than the plans we had in place.


Wells resident Julie Seedorf’s column appears every Monday. Send email to her at thecolumn@bevcomm.net.