Christmas on the franch isn’t anything like the paintings in the Norman Rockwell Christmas collection. Our life is actually pretty much the opposite of his artwork. But, the imperfections of our day lead to good laughs and memories. It’d be interesting to see how an artist would paint our Christmas on the franch. The first piece of work portraying our day would be of our children pulling on overalls over their pajamas. In the background, there’d be unopened presents still under the Christmas tree. It’s expected that morning chores be completed first even on Christmas day. Excitedly, our children go about their barn responsibilities as they guess the contents of the wrapped boxes of different shapes and sizes. The artist would later have to paint our children opening their gifts with hay on their pajamas from filling up the feeding troughs, wet sleeves from cleaning out the chicken waterers, and dirt under their fingernails from a quick barn sweep. In an art gallery exhibit of Christmas on the franch, you’d see watercolors of unusual gifts unwrapped on Christmas morning. One year, my husband decided it wasn’t right for his lady to sit on an overturned bucket while milking the goats. So, my special gift was a homemade milking stool. Needless to say, my husband isn’t gifted in the craft of woodworking so his plans of a stable three-legged stool didn’t quite work out. But, that wobbly, lopsided four-legged stool remains one of my favorite gifts ever and is proudly on display in my dining room. (And, by the way, I still sit on an overturned bucket to milk our goats). Another gift likely only a francher would be grateful to open on Christmas morning is an automatic water bucket. A painting of me beside a Christmas tree with a genuine smile and sparkling eyes holding an automatic waterer could very well be hanging on the wall of a gallery someday. Anything automatic on the franch is time saved for a busy franch girl. Painting our Christmas stockings hung over the fireplace would frustrate any artist because their work would never be finished. You see, our children insist on a stocking for their animals. And, the animals are always changing on our franch. My poor mother gets requests for her hand-sewn stockings almost every year as new animals arrive either through a sale or birth. Then, there are the stockings that stay in the Christmas storage bin out in the shed the next year (like the one for the dog that wouldn’t stop eating our chickens, and the one for the calf that was sold, and then there’s the one for the lamb butchered earlier in the year…). Unexpectedly, there was one brief moment during this year’s Christmas celebration that our family felt like Norman Rockwell’s The Thanksgiving Picture. Except it wasn’t roasted turkey. Instead, even better, we served fresh roast leg of lamb with rosemary. It was a lamb born and raised on our franch. And, each of the main ingredients of the side dishes was fresh from our winter garden. On the table with the lamb was creamed cabbage, sweet-n-sour beets with apples, broccoli sunshine salad, mashed potatoes, and fresh pumpkin pie from one half-green, half-orange pumpkin that had barely made it through an early frost and had surprisingly ripened off the vine in our barn. We all marveled that what was before us on the table was grown with our own hands. Though I must admit that something about our meal wasn’t perfect. We had planned such an extensive menu that it was served four hours later than promised. So, by the time we were gathered at the table, our children were already full from eating candy canes and chocolate stocking stuffers all day. Our family definitely doesn’t live up to the perfect standards of a Rockwell painting at Christmas or any time of the year, but what family does?