So, here we are, in the lull between Christmas and New Year’s Day, and at yet another calm before another winter storm. Time to reflect on the things that have changed, and the things that stay the same.
The changes in our life used to come in little baby-steps, as we parented our youngsters through two naps to one per day, shifting from sippy cups to big-kid glassware and from cribs to twin beds. Lately, though, the changes are more striking. Or maybe they’re just more visible during the holidays, when we’re all taking measure of the year past. Many of the cards we’ve received have brought the usual tidings of joy, plus news of our friends’ kids’ graduations, engagements, weddings. That next generation appears to have hopped, skipped and jumped over the last fifteen years or so, and is busy hitting major milestones, while we, the moms and dads, are collectively standing on the sidelines, cheering and taking photos, and wondering where our children’s childhoods disappeared to.
True fact: our sons have been ambling towards adulthood for, oh, two decades plus. But it took seeing them pull into the driveway with a tree on top of the car to make me realize how fully we now occupy a new Christmas realm. Alas, this new zone is short on fervent believers in the possibility of flying reindeer, but is also blessedly lacking gifts that require too much assembly after too many spiked eggnogs on Xmas eve. Our Christmas mornings no longer require Calvin and Hobbes compendiums propped up by the stairs, with the message, “Take this back to bed and don’t wake up Mom and Dad til after 6AM! No peeking! Love Santa.” Now we’re the ones nudging our kids to wake up, so we can commence the egg strata-eating and Christmas stocking-emptying-fest.
But amidst the turning of the seasons and the endless circle game, there are things that don’t change, for which I am so very grateful. These include:
The party up the hill, hosted by our favorite 93-year-old skier in his sartorial splendor. His stories of ski trips taken and ligaments damaged and drives from ski area parking lots to hobble-in clinics are epic. My guys like to go to this annual Xmas Eve party, just to see what our host will be wearing. That, and for the eggnog, spiked and otherwise.
Our long-standing reading of The Polar Express. Every year, before bedtime, we gather around, and John reads it aloud. Every year, he thinks he’ll make it to the end without his voice breaking. Every year, he fails. Every year, he says, “I thought I was going to make it to the end this time.” Every year, his inability to not get choked up makes me love him more than I already do.
The Christmas picture book. We’ve been putting together an album for my in-laws, every Christmas for almost three decades. They used to require lots of reprints and tape. Now it comes via UPS, all bound and beautiful, with legible captions and lots of photos from lots of photographers. What a world! And this is the best part, when we gather round and get a first viewing.
All in all, I am grateful for the many things in my life that have evolved in ways I would never have dreamed. And I also feel so very lucky to be part of a family that honors the traditions that make us, and keep us, who we are, year after year.