The day I made this tray was a sad one. I wanted it to look like my mom’s lovely butler’s serving tray with its gracefully curved edges. In fact, I was quite pleased with the curve I’d managed to saw on the right side in my 5th grade shop class. But then the one on the left came out bumpy and too flat, and my beautiful tray was ruined. What a disappointment!

Over six decades later, as a grandmother, I can’t help smiling as I see that sturdy, useful little tray still gracing my kitchen. Even its imperfections have a certain charm to them. They didn’t ruin it after all. They only serve as gentle reminders not to let perfectionism extinguish the joy of the moment. And I can still use those reminders. Oh, yes, even now.

Not long ago I made an obvious mistake near the end of the piano accompaniment of Rachmaninoff’s “Vocalise,” which our grandson was performing on his violin for his mom’s birthday party. And to make matters worse, it was being recorded! I was in anguish over it because the rest of it had gone so well. But strangely enough, no one else seemed the least bit disturbed by my mistake.

Experts, of course, don’t make such mistakes. And I suppose I could talk myself out of doing a lot of things I enjoy simply because I don’t do them expertly. Or perhaps I could devote myself to many more hours of practice in order to develop expertise. But in most cases expertise, as I’ve learned, isn’t what it takes to spark joy in those around me. Love is. With love it’s almost impossible to “ruin” anything, and without it nothing ever quite satisfies. So perhaps, when all is said and done, the only talent worth perfecting is love.