Rather than writing next week’s Advent presentation or contemplative prayer practice, I’m twiddling thoughts for this year’s Christmas letter.
I dropped one percolating thought right into Friday’s Food post on oatmeal cookies. Remember this line? — Isn’t it ironic that we remember the times when certificates change hands — like for a marriage or the birth of a child or a college graduation — and forget that the best of real life is found sandwiched in between?
When I wrote that line, I was thinking of this year’s Christmas letter and how the contents of past letters, both sent and received, were not much more than a series of life punctuation points accompanied by certificates.
I want to write a better letter this year though I’m unsure of what ‘better’ will look like. I’d like the letter to recognize the importance of the everyday. But how do I do this in the age of no words please – in the age of twitters and texts and short-attention spans? Longer will definitely not do; and if longer is not better, this means the content must change.
Perhaps I need to write more than I need and then distill. Cut, cut, cut. I could even begin with my everyday thoughts on certificate days.
Thoughts on marriage: It is in the daily living rather than on the wedding day where two lives are joined together; where true knowledge of each other grows out of mere knowing about the other, where each learns, often the hard way, what brings the other joy or angst and where dreams and fears are shared and sometimes even heard. On good days, one partner may deftly read in-between the lines of a spouse’s spoken word, though not too often. But it is upon the smooth and rough seas of the everyday, where days of sameness collide together, that an unnoticed miracle will occur: a few threads of the mystery of each partner will gradually unravel to allow the loose threads to be woven into the others own. The weaving of lives together is not a pretty process or even a pretty result. Nor does it happen overnight. But thread by thread and day by day, two lives will become one, as long as they remember to stay loose and unravel every so often.
Thoughts on parenting: Parenting grows out of everyday care and the raising of a child rather than in conception and delivery. If most parents are like me, they haven’t a clue of what to expect when they bring their darling newborn infant home; no mere eighteen year commitment this, since love is sown deep to keep parents forever parents to a child, no matter how many wrinkles a child ultimately grows. Parent boot camp consists of never-ending feedings and diaper changes and later the never-ending chauffering and coaching and all the sleep-deprived nights from sleepovers and sickness and forgetfulness of some teen- aged child who stays out past curfew.. or forgets to come home. Parents are made and not born.
Thoughts on graduation: It will be mixed bag of emotions (pride, joy, relief) to watch two adult children walk across the stage to receive their college diploma next May and walk off the stage and their father’s payroll. But the celebratory moment would be hollow without awareness of the hard work that preceded the certificate… and the hard work that will follow it.
Of course lessons in the classroom are important — but the lessons outside are the ones that birth character, as one of mine has recently discovered through a Shakespearean tragedy of errors where he became the unlucky scapegoat of the university student newspaper. Helplessly, I have watched him suffer. Thankfully, I am now seeing him pick up the pieces to carry on life wiser and stronger. He has been fortunate to attract two able mentors to see him through his ordeal. Perhaps, Hillary Clinton was right in saying that it takes a village to raise a child. So yes, while there is pride, joy and relief, it has less to do with certificates than in the men they have become.
These thoughts will take some serious editing. I guess shorter really makes for a better letter. If so, perhaps this sweet tweet might just do?
This year we had one marriage, no births and two graduations.
All our best to you and the rest.