Writing a Christmas Letter

Once the dust and store receipts have settled from the Black Friday rush, I turn my attention to Christmas. My home becomes engulfed with age-old decorations whose worth are found in the memories and nowhere else. “One day I will buy all new decorations,” I say, but never follow through. Instead, I melt the wax to seal together a Santa candle that has seen better days.

Then, there’s the Christmas letter. I learned long ago that an outline goes far in putting together a writing project, and though the letter is short and must fit on one page, the outline is often the most tedious bit. I begin by looking back at pictures from the past year, memories of big days (that day I walked away with my Masters degree) and memories of not so big days (that day I took a selfie with a llama).

I make a list of these big and small days for my family, but also for each person individually, too. What big events happened to Baby G? Baby D? Baby W? The Man? Me? I even ask them – what memory do you hold most dear? And that’s exactly what I did yesterday that led to this post. Asking about a memory: Baby G’s memory.

Baby G had several memories: he stepped into the official role of a teenager with the blowing out of 13 candles, he maintained straight A’s for the entirety of his middle school career, and, most memorable to him, he enjoyed the company of our Italian family once again during our extended Euro trip. Specifically, he loved The Hague, home to his Nonna. “Her house overlooks an intersection where pedestrians, cyclists, cars, and trams cross constantly. There are window shops lined one after another. It’s so busy and I loved it”. In truth, we all loved The Hague, in part due to catching a full week of sunny weather brightening the North Sea rather than meeting the typical windy and drizzly condition that badgers the area. But, what we saw was beautiful and Nonna’s view was an amazing show of European life.

“Nonna said you could even go to the university there since it’s in English. It’s an option.” I offered this thought to my young boy because the world of universities and colleges and frat parties and drinking and being away from Mamma is a world that is out of sight. Right? Baby G responded, “It’s definitely an option. I have a couple of years to think about it and see where I stand”. Silly boy, you have more than a couple of years. You have decades, centuries, millennia even. But then his words struck me hard because, he does, in fact, only have a couple of years: three and a half, four at the most, and then he needs to decide where he wants to study, what he wants to study, or if he even wants to leave his Mamma. Surely he will decide to stay here? …Less than four years? I am not prepared!

I can recount what I wrote in my last four Christmas letters. I can recall where we spent the last four Christmas days. These last four years flew by in a blink. How do I stop the next four from doing the same? And, adding fuel to the fire, when Baby G is off to his first year of college – wherever that might be – Baby D is just seconds behind him with one foot out the door.

Parents out there, surely you understand: the panic is real.

So, my outline became fidgety and uncertain. I stopped thinking about the past and tried conjuring a way to slow down the rushing future. I didn’t want to write another Christmas letter marking the end of another year, but instead wanted to publish the headline: “Woman, crazed mother of 3, finds a way to slow time so she can enjoy every.single.second before the world of universities and colleges and frat parties and drinking and being away from Mamma takes hold of her kids.” In my mind, it’s quite the story, but not a solid reality.

So where do I go from here? There are hundreds of articles and blogs about living in the moment, absorbing every ounce of life while you can, and fulfilling corny bucket lists with your kids. I won’t write about those. I won’t even tell the lie that suddenly we will start cozying up by the fire to watch a great family show every night, just after finishing a game of Monopoly during which time no one will have argued about whether you can buy a hotel during the same round or not.

That’s not real.

What’s real, instead, is that for the next four years I will continue rushing to football games and basketball practices. I will continue pushing the importance of flossing your teeth and folding laundry my way. I will eventually meet whatever girl they bring home and pray very, very hard that I like her. I will continue worrying about not doing enough, not being good enough. I will continue being so proud of their successes and stand behind them when they falter.

I will continue writing our Christmas letter, and if you’re reading it in four years, I will let you know what the son of that crazed mother of 3 decided to do.