Another year has come in which my loose plans to make a Christmas card have failed.
I’ve been looking through the cards we’ve received so far this year and I’ve hung them on the wall in all of their glitter and gold-foil-font glory as they trickle in. It’s part reminder — oh shoot, I’m running out of time, I’d better do that soon — and part homage to friends far away. I’ve read their letters and I’ve learned new things. This year I found out one friend bought a van, and another is moving away.
Every year, I promise I’ll make my own card next year.
And every year I think, "What would I say?" To my friends who have moved and my family far in the future, what would I say?
It would go something like this:
At this very moment, my 6-year-old son is standing at the front door threatening to run away into the snow without shoes or boots or coat or gloves. Never mind that I just spent 10 minutes putting all of the above on him a few moments ago; somehow, as soon as I armor my children against the snow, they become defeated — there goes a mitten, off goes a boot, they’ve got snow in their sleeve, etc. — and here they come back to my door to be re-dressed.
I consider, is 6 years old enough to put on your own boots? I think yes. So the drama ensues, and the threats, and he is so mad at me.
The youngest child, 4, is quite pleased with me.
In a shockingly moment of proactivity, I made the 4-year-old’s cookies for the cookie exchange myself, two days ago. I looked up a recipe for gingerbread cookies and I followed the directions to the letter (also uncharacteristic of me) and they were baked and ready to go. Then today, we made royal icing and decorated the triumphal cookies with 5 minutes to spare. That was a win.
In this moment, my oldest child, 9, is equally mad and pleased with me, depending on what second is ticking by. Sometimes she can be both at the same time. What is this world of pre-teenage-hood that has visited our house three years early? Contrary to the 6-year-old, she didn’t want to put on her snow clothes to go out and play. She wanted something else, and I said no, and the drama ensued. She apologized, I said OK, then she got mad again. It’s just the way it goes.
My 9-year-old told me this summer that she is now in on the Santa secret, and she knows the truth. Nevertheless, she decorated her room with ornaments and ribbon, and she professes that she “still believes.” She loves the Christmas spirit.
At this very moment, I am watching the sun sink behind the hill behind my house, and wishing it would snow. I’m sick, again. And I’m blaming the rasp in my voice on the inversion that blanketed my world for most of this week. It was suffocating and dismal. As I watch the light from the sun fade now, I’m glad the air is at least clear enough to see the hill, and if I try hard enough, the sky.
I’m thinking how fast these moments are flying by. I’m thinking that one day, sooner than I realize, I’ll miss the sound of my middle child kicking on the door because he doesn’t want to take his mittens off to ring the doorbell to ask me to put on his boot. These moments are all-consuming, and yet so fleeting.
A friend of mine sent me an article from The New York Times that said traditions, time and a strong family narrative are the key to helping children face challenges.
In a study of children who were tested on their knowledge of personal family details, like where their parents went to high school, how their parents met and the story of their birth, the children who knew more were psychologically better off.
“The more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem, and the more successfully they believed their families functioned,” Bruce Feiler wrote in “The Stories That Bind Us” in The New York Times in 2013. “If you want a happier family, create, refine and retell the story of your family’s positive moments and your ability to bounce back from the difficult ones.”
In 2017, every day was filled with moments that were both positive and difficult, just like today. But the sun also shines, the clouds always part, and the minutes of joy are what linger.
I hope your days are filled with moments of happiness and love.
I promise I’ll send you a Christmas card — next year.