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A: If by ready you mean, “Does it look like Santa’s been using your place as a safehouse for the past 6 weeks, and are your children about to be buried beneath an avalanche of presents—none of which will be a surprise to any of them?” then yes. And if by “are you all” you’re actually asking, “is your wife ready, because she does damn near everything when it comes to this,” then yes again. She knew I was terrible at planning ahead when she married me; if it were left to me, we’d be celebrating Christmas in March. 

I have but one job when it comes to holiday preparations: write the letter that goes out with our holiday cards. It was a gig I’d had plenty of practice at, long before I even met H. I started writing these back in 1993—a different one, I haven’t been writing the same Christmas letter since 1993—as a high school senior smartass still living with my parents, very much in love with the attention but blissfully unaware that I would keep writing them, to the tune of 30 and counting. The deadline sneaks up on me every year, bringing with it a certain rib-rattling pressure to get it done. It’s a Christmas miracle that somehow, despite a snow-white emptiness in my head at the beginning, it always seems to come together by the end. 

To bastardize a quote by John and Yoko, “So this is (the) Christmas (letter).” I know we (probably) don’t know each other, but I want to thank you for indulging me on this silly site. Happy Holidays!

Dearest Friends and Family,

It’s our least-favorite annual tradition: No sooner is the tree through the front door, unbound and in place in the living room than we’re forced to shuffle the entire house around to accommodate it and the four Rubbermaids full of holiday decorations. When we lived in Portland, the excuses came freely—the house was a tiny bungalow with six people living in it, after all. But what do we have to say for ourselves now, with a three-car garage and only one car that barely fits inside? Where did all of this stuff come from? How do we get rid of it? Can Santa help? Could we make it a 3:1 exchange for each present he leaves? At this point I’m basically begging the Grinch to steal Christmas, as long as it means we can safely close our linen closet door. 

With only half of our family living full-time in the house these days, and with that house being more than roomy enough to accommodate double the population, it’s a bit odd and more than a little frustrating to go hunting for a screwdriver and find it inside a toolkit inside a cooler inside a cooler inside another cooler, like a redneck Russian nesting doll. Rest assured, it definitely feels to us like we’ve transitioned out of Portland and into New Mexico. We are finding things that make us happy here, that make it easier to stay, that make us less homesick for the PNW. And yet: Are we ready to give up the last couch all six of us sat on as a family in the living room where we all started off together? HECK NO. And that is why our new living room has three couches in it and looks like a Jennifer Convertibles showroom. Three-quarters of our kids are now out of the house. But their elementary school work is stacked in tubs behind the ping-pong table, just in case their Political Science professor wants proof that they could draw a decent flower in kindergarten. And I’d bet you the contents of the piggy bank I just found in a cardboard box marked “kitchen appliances” that those tubs will remain intact through our next move, no matter how far away that is.

 Clearly, we’re holding on too tightly to some things. And the reasons why are starting to crystallize—just like the frost on the three-year-old Girl Scout cookies in our back-up freezer.

Maybe we keep all this stuff around out of love. But if I’m honest, fear feels like the more likely culprit—fear that we wasted time we thought we had, let things slip we figured were permanent. Maybe these holdouts are an attempt to anchor us in a moment where we still kept growth charts on the door frame and squished around a table for a loud dinner whose conversation always reverted to bodily functions. Maybe we’re hoping they’re talismanic relics that might allow us to travel back, do it all again, right our wrongs or just relive the highlights. Maybe they’re weighing us down; maybe that was the point. But does that even matter, if you have to crawl across the shards of middle-grade ceramics projects just to get to the wrapping paper?

Looking at it all feels a bit silly sometimes. We are not those same people, and thank goodness—every day that goes by I’m a little less in the dark on how to be a dad. But as we prepare to welcome even more inanimate objects into our home, we have to get past the point where saying goodbye to things feels like letting down or letting go of the person who gave it to us. I remember my own dad’s Christmas wish list shrinking down to nothing, him being impossible to buy for, and now I think I know why: He grew to want what couldn’t be bought. We’re feeling that now, too. 

That’s why I can’t wait until we are all gathered together again. I cannot wait to look them in the eye, pull them close, and embrace them warmly. Then hand each of them a trash bag and say, “Here. Fill this.”

Peace, Love and Joy to One and All, 

J, H, B, S, E & P



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