My Realistic Christmas Letter

 I’d like to be one of those people who sends out family pictures at the holidays. You know the photos: Every member of the tribe has used actual deodorant, has allowed a hairbrush to float about the general vicinity of his or her scalp, has donned clean-enough clothing and will stand still long enough to smile or at least to crack open his or her lips and show off that grill, also known as braces. Or more accurately known as the reason they’re getting fewer Christmas gifts this year.


    I’ve been a mom for 19 years now and I’ve recently used a complicated mathematical formula by which I add 56, divide by good intentions, carry the pets, cross multiply by exhaustion and end up with the sum of my average: Over those 19 years I’ve sent out exactly one Christmas letter. Yay underachieving!  I’ve accepted the fact that I’m just not ever going to be a family Christmas card person. But recently I’ve wondered, if I did break my impressive non-communicatory streak, what would my Realistic Christmas Letter look like? One that wasn’t perfect and polished? One that told the actual story of a year? Now, don’t get me wrong…I love reading people’s years in review. It brings me holiday cheer and goodwill toward all to know that they are doing well. But I think my letter would look a little more like this:


Dear Friends and Family,


    Let’s be honest. I’m never going to mail this out because just driving by the Post Office is enough to make me ponder the pros and cons of working Valium into my life. I’m leaning in heavily toward Yes about now. I mean, I keep meaning to go to the pre-paid postage website and sign up for the Magical Never Go To The Post Office Again subscription I’ve heard tales of, but I’ve been a little busy.


    Busy doing what, you ask? Well, settle in and I’ll tell you. Maybe, in fact, your year looked just a little bit like mine…..


    The topper to my list this year would be Momming. I have achieved the Eagle Scout-level patch of “You are raising and feeding three teenagers” this year. At some point along the childrearing journey,  I had read in a parenting book, oh blessed work of fiction that it was, that parenting big kids would be less tiring than parenting toddlers. To that author, I have my own well-thought-out, calmly-composed literary criticism to offer and it is thus: Liar, liar, your pants had better be on fire or I will at least set your book ablaze in an alternative yule log ceremony of my own. Moms. If you got nothing done this year but make it through with your sanity more or less intact and with one or maybe 3/4 of your kids’ names remembered, and with those kids still mostly loving you? On every third Thursday? That’s a win, friends. Write it down. Raise yourself a glass of whatever. You hero, you!


    This year brought a new challenge to my parenting plans, as I worked full-time outside of the home for the first time in awhile. Necessity is the mother of getting a job, or whatever it is that they say. Working mamas. Seriously. I have questions. How have you done it? WHY do your people still expect crazy generous things like dinner each night? When do you sleep? Is coffee offered in a portable IV bag? Are washed and folded and put away clothes really a “thing” that people do? I’d like to salute you, but I’m fearful that I’ve developed carpal tunnel syndrome from the work hours I’ve spent on my computer and the googling of “is there a silent monastery retreat available in my area?”  Or any area? I’m totally saluting you in spirit, though.


    This year I’ve stared down the tunnel of a new journey I didn’t want to take: That of watching people I love grow older and step into the health challenges that this stage of life brings. For those of you who are caretakers to parents and grandparents and other loved ones: May your new year bring new moments of respite and rest and may your heart know the tricky balance of acceptance and grieving. It’s harder than they told us it would be, isn’t it?


    There’s not time or caffeine enough to list in detail all of the other events that comprise a year: Celebrations. Loss. New friendships. Broken hearts. Work stress, for ourselves and for our extended family. Trying to do right by others in time and resources. Household maintenance. Animal maintenance. Political breakdowns. Nights full of worry instead of sleep. Daylight Saving Time.


    But throughout the 365-give-or-take-one-weirdly-tacked-on-day time span, there’s a thread that pulls through, that ties us to each other, that holds us all as one: Love. Whether our year has been measured more with Love’s loss than gain this time around or whether our year has overflowed with the joy of connection, Love’s presence is always the constant soundtrack humming underneath our lives.


    No matter what did or didn’t occur this year, what dreams were put to bed for good, what granted wishes surprised us with their appearance, what hearts opened or closed to us, we can still hold to that thread of Love, whether it feels wispy and inconsequential in its weight or heavy and thick with substance.


    Here’s to your year. As you close the door on the passing months, may you open your heart to the possibilities waiting in the moments to come.

“Five hundred twenty-five thousand

Six hundred minutes

Five hundred twenty-five thousand

Moments so dear

Five hundred twenty-five thousand

Six hundred minutes

How do you measure – measure a year?

In daylights – in sunsets

In midnights – in cups of coffee

In inches – in miles

In laughter – in strife

In – five hundred twenty-five thousand

Six hundred minutes

How do you measure

A year in the life

How about love?

How about love?

How about love?

Measure in love.” (“Seasons of Love,” Jonathan Martin, “Rent,” 2005)