We didn't send a Christmas card this year.
Petrified. Terrified. Horrified. Mortified.
I don't remember how old I was, but I was young enough that my classroom celebrated a Valentine's Day party. If you're of a certain age, you know how it worked: You made simple valentine cards for everyone in your class that maybe included a few nice words in the realm of "Be my Valentine!" along with, possibly, a couple candy hearts or other little sweet treats. Then, when the teacher gave the go-ahead, you and your classmates walked about the classroom with your valentines and delivered them one by one. Then everyone opened them, and a good time was had by all.
But not me, not that year. I don't recall if I forgot, was unspeakably lazy or simply procrastinated too much, but by the time I realized we were fast approaching our Valentine's Day party, it was too late for me to buy and/or make any cards for any of my classmates. And instead of telling my parents or alerting my teacher and hoping they'd react with a certain degree of compassion and understanding and, in doing so, maybe be able to somehow bail me out, I kept my dark secret to myself.
I played it cool and coy that day in class, even though I was bursting with unbridled panic inside. When it was time to pass out valentine cards, I just kind of went through the motions in the hope that no one would notice that I wasn't actively and officially participating.
It was torture. I kept waiting for a friend or random classmate to come up to me and say, "Where's my card?" or "I didn't get a valentine from you." But no one ever did. I successfully pulled off my ruse.
I thought about that nightmarish experience the other day, when I read an email from my sister in which she offered up jolly Christmas greetings and then mentioned that she hadn't yet seen a Christmas card from my family in the mail.
We didn't send a Christmas card this year. We had intentions of doing so. When our oldest son came home from college for his holiday/semester break, we'd planned to take a nice family picture, slap it on a card and mail it off to friends and loved ones from coast to coast. But when our oldest son arrived as planned, we didn't get around to taking the photo right away, and before you knew it were in the midst of a last-minute Christmas shopping blitz and frenetically trying to schedule gatherings with family and friends, and it soon became clear that we weren’t going to make it happen this Christmas season.
I grew up in a family where my mom wrote a Christmas letter every year. I had grandmas who wrote similar letters, and aunts, too. So when I grew up, got married and started a family, I wrote annual Christmas letters, too. I secretly enjoyed it; I tried to break the mold a bit each year by not just giving a chronological re-telling of our family's year and sharing with our friends and family how wonderful our children are and all of the amazing places we visited across the globe. (In reality, our travels amounted to weekends at the lake in the summer and winter hockey weekends at hotels, sports bars and rinks from one corner of Minnesota to the other.)
But after a few years, I felt tapped out. When I started a Christmas letter with the idea of writing the entire thing backwards - not just backward sentences but every actual word, insanely, spelled backwards - when I'd finished only the opening paragraph around three hours later, I knew it was time to toss in the towel and give in to the easier act of sending a card featuring a nice family photo.
I have a couple friends who try to break the mold around this time every year by sending a “Happy New Year!” card a couple weeks later than everyone else sends their Christmas cards, so I think I'll try to save face and give that a go right here, right now:
New Year’s greetings to one and all!
It’s been a year of epic transition in the Christopherson household, with Ethan graduating from high school and heading off to college, and the crushing void left when he spread his wings in the fall slowly and steadily easing. His best friend and younger brother, Trey, has survived his brother’s moving on, and when he’s not “hanging” and “chilling” with his friends, he’s testing his parents to see how much he can get away with.
Michelle, she just keeps working harder than maybe anyone I know, and consistently putting others’ needs before her own.
We’re both getting older; is that the big 5-0 on the distant horizon, riding in with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse? But we’re rolling with the inevitable passage of time; no sense trying to stop it or even slow it down.
The transitions show no sign of letting up, as we both realize that our parents are flirting with official elderly status, and we know that as they need additional support as time passes, they’re going to need us, more and more.
It’s about priorities. You can take a glimpse at the current state of things around you and struggle to even climb out of bed, or you can work tirelessly to fix the bad, concentrate on the good, and embrace your family and friends that you love, and who love you back, unconditionally.
To you and yours, a tremendous 2018 and beyond. If that wish is too lofty, ambitious or hopeful for you for whatever reason at this particular moment in your life, then just try to be your best, and always be the first to smile when others cross your path.