20131203 – Empty Nests and the Christmas Letter
Some of you are certainly prompt with your Christmas cards and letters! The first two arrived in the mail yesterday, emphasizing the big task on my list for the next few weeks; that of completing our own family Christmas greetings before the big event. I’m excited about the task ahead and looking forward to reconnecting with long-missed friends and distant family members. At the same time I have mixed emotions about this season. This just may be a hard to write Christmas Letter.
I always look forward to Christmas as not just a celebration of Christ’s birth, but a celebration of love and family and faith. It’s the giving of time and self much more than the giving of gifts that makes this holiday special for me. But this will be a celebration of mixed blessings, this Christmas of 2013. This year our home will feel more empty than it has in thirty-three years as this season marks the end of multiple generations sharing this place, and this space. It will be our first empty nest Christmas since we began our family a third of a century ago.
Oh yes, we’ll have plenty of family time, not to worry; but to wake up on Christmas morning to a quiet house, and not hear the squeal of little voices or the patter of little feet (or these days the gentle treading of my son’s size eleven slippers) will not necessarily be a welcome change. It will be a difficult adjustment, one that I do not anticipate with joy, one that will not provoke a, “Yes, finally have the house to ourselves again” kind of feeling (although I’m sure that sentiment will flash through my brain on occasion, perhaps in the middle of a steamy hot shower, or watching a movie in the family room in my pajamas).
Passages, reimagining life as I mentioned last week; that is what is being thrust upon us this Christmas season. And with no children at home, and grandchildren at the other end of the continent, this will be a rather abrupt shift to a new stage of life for us.
S and L, and D and I were working away at Mom’s condo Saturday, packing and painting and arranging, and sneaking in a quick pizza and soda for sustenance. It felt good and it brought back memories of our own first move to our own place. It’s a good thing to take on that responsibility, and the even bigger responsibility of being a caretaker for Grandma’s place for a time, a responsibility S and L are not taking lightly. Still, they’re excited to be moving out and taking this large next step in their life together as a couple.
Put in the context of celebrating new life, I think this Christmas will be exactly that, a time to celebrate the birth of newly re-imagined lives and the baby steps it takes to start down new paths, paths that may take us far apart, but at the end of life as we know it, will inevitably bring us back together in that sweet eternal, multigenerational home that my faith tells me is waiting somewhere down the road.
And speaking of Christmas Letters, are you for or against them? I have to say for, but with specific conditions: they should be limited to two pages or less including photos; and they should be directed at close friends and family with whom you have not been able to share the gift of time over the past year. I suppose a third condition might be that they cover major events or life changes, but not offer a blow by blow chronology of the entire year. But hey, that’s just my opinion, and how I approach my letters.
Christmas Letters are important to me because we have close friends and relatives who we rarely have a chance to see or talk with. I treasure those relationships but sometimes I have no way to share just how much they mean to me other than through a letter. The Christmas Letter is my way of reaching out and asking how they are and what important things have happened in their lives over the past year. And it’s my way of answering those same questions I assume they might have of me. Maybe I’m foolish to make that assumption, you know, that someone might actually care about me and my family the way I care for them. So be it; I’ll take that chance because Christmas for me is an affirmation of life and love and family and relationships. Oh, and if you’re friends or relatives who haven’t heard from us at Christmas recently and have been missing that connection then feel free to take me to task for that oversight; I’ve probably screwed up the Christmas Letter list somehow.
Empty nests and Christmas Letters; hmm…what strange bedfellows in the pondering business. Although that peculiar linkage may just get me past the emptiness I’m already starting to feel and warm up the old ticker enough to get me started on this year’s Christmas Letter…Pops