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Christmas letter isn’t always about good news

It started when my third child was born. I hadn’t intended to write a Christmas letter, but it seemed the easiest way to let everyone know about our new bundle of joy and at the same time advise our loved ones they may never hear from us again.

Considering the mountains of diapers and laundry I was trapped beneath, it seemed a prudent warning.

I know, I know. Christmas letters are a much-maligned holiday experience. We have all been the unwitting recipients of three-page letters that detail the weather, the cat’s eye surgery, and Viola’s failing health. We’ve felt slightly nauseated by the gifted and talented prodigies being raised in other people’s families, and we’ve counted our frequent flier miles (again) after reading about everyone else’s far-flung and fabulous vacations.



But I suppose I’m a glutton because I still enjoy this glimpse into the lives of people I love, even it means knowing Aunt Myrtle came down with a bad case of the shingles. Besides, our Christmas letter could be different, I reasoned. Ours could be interesting and compelling and funny. I pictured people waiting expectantly each Christmas for the latest holiday letter from our house to theirs. In short, I was determined we would make Christmas readers delight over our young family’s exploits.

And for many years they have (or so I’m told).



The daughter who started it all is now eleven years old. Which means I’m … well, eleven years older. Which means my memory ain’t what it used to be. So when I sat down recently to write the annual Christmas letter, full of newsy tidbits from a year so full of activity and fun that surely anyone who knows us would be interested, I came up with this: Tim threw his back out in March, the prescription on my eye-glasses changed, and my sister was in a tornado.

Somebody shoot me now.

So, with absolute certainty there was more to our year than … that … and with a large dose of Ginkgo Biloba in hand, I approached my husband. “Honey I’m trying to write the Christmas letter. What the heck did we do last year?”

“Uhhh … Hmm. Geez.” He stared blankly at the wall for so long I finally glanced at it myself. “Start with an easy one. What did we do last week?” he finally said.

“Was that the week you locked both sets of keys in the car?”

“Nobody wants to hear about that,” he countered, but I made a mental note of it anyway, just in case we couldn’t come up with anything better.

We both stared at the wall again.

“I can’t believe we can’t remember what happened last year,” I finally said, sounding a bit desperate. “It was so busy. Maybe that’s it. It was too busy. We should slow down.” And I do feel the truth in that statement even now.

“We have three kids, they’re growing and happy. Of course it’ll be busy,” he said, mollifying me. But this memory-lapse was really beginning to bother me now.

“If you want to jog your memory, why don’t you look at the calendar?”

“Good ide … wait!” Panic filled my eyes. “The calendar is dry erase!” I shouted, suddenly faint with the notion that we have erased every memory from 2008 with a simple wipe of a tissue.

It seems inevitable that parenting and memory loss go hand-in-hand. Yet something teased at the corners of my brain. Flashes of memory I’m not certain anyone else would want to know but I truly don’t want to forget; moments that never make it onto the calendar anyway. Because how can you schedule fits of laughter, or home runs, or rain showers on the river? How do you “pencil in” getting thrown from a horse and climbing right back on? Finding yourself upside down in a kayak on the Colorado River? Being arrested by the Mexican policia?

My calendar doesn’t have enough space to write out the number of hugs I would like on a daily basis and the quiet conversations I crave at bedtime. Sure, I scheduled the day I took Nick to get his driver’s permit, but not the way he held my hand as we walked through the building. I don’t orchestrate on a datebook the way Ben lights up a room when he sings. The tug at some secret place in my heart when my daughter answers the phone in a chirpy “hello this is Anna!” ” mature and eager.

These things never made it onto the dry erase calendar we use. But they are the things I’ll remember most about 2008.

At least for the next week or so.

Charla Belinski’s column appears every other week in the he Glenwood Springs Post Independent. Contact her at Belinski@comcast.net.


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