8 years ago I started writing a holiday card that tries to capture our family at a moment in time. Here they are all in one place. I’m putting them together partly because I’ve always wanted to see them in one place. And partly because I’m starting to write this year’s card and wanted a little historic inspiration. This year there’s so much change in our little big world….looking backward is sweet and also just a tiny bit sad. Looking forward is exciting with a dose of ‘oh my god how did this happen?’.
You walked through the red door expecting perhaps a welcoming kiss on the cheek. The huge dog’s exuberance nearly knocked you over before the smallest member of the household, the blonde six and three-quarter year old boy, sent him to his bed with a single word spoken with complete authority: “rug”. The ten-year-old green-eyed girl twirled noisily into the room and graced you with a look that told you she was really happy you were here. The boy had disappeared. The click of legos in the distance placed him and you heard a distracted “come play with me…” from a room down the hall. The girl took your hand and gave you the kiss on the cheek you just realized you hadn’t yet gotten. She held your hand and pulled you further into the house, through the living room, past the music-covered piano, into the dining room. You smelled something cooking in the kitchen but couldn’t quite place the aroma. As she kissed you hello, the wife told you she’d just gotten a box of vegetables from the farm in the valley and she was trying a new recipe. Her husband didn’t look too worried. He shook your hand heartily, offering you a chair at the table and a drink. You thanked them all for their warm greeting then turned to the girl who waited impatiently for your full attention. The boy was finally drawn into the fray with the promise of goat cheese and hot chocolate. He brought his legos to the table. Happy holidays from the six and three-quarter year old boy, the green-eyed girl, the wife who’s always trying something new and the generous and kind husband. And the very large dog.
You hesitate just a moment before the red door. When you finally knock, the piano music stops and you hear the scuffle of many feet headed your way. The eleven year old green eyed girl throws open the door and pulls you in, standing on tiptoe to kiss your cheek. The six and three quarter year old blue eyed boy stands just behind her with the hint of a grin that he’s trying to hide. The smell of roasting turkey rushes toward the open door and you smile knowing that the wife is going to treat you to her most famous meal. In the background you hear the ringing of a doorbell. The children each take a hand and pull you into the living room. The blonde boy wants you to play with him and you remember last year’s legos, the girl is clearly just happy you are here. When the husband walks in to rescue you and take your coat, they introduce him as their bionic daddy. You know he’s had some recent heart problems, but his handshake is as strong as ever so you relax and follow him into the dining room to greet the wife and accept the glass of wine she’s offering. You promise the children your full attention as soon as you’ve said hello. The wife hugs you and moves her yoga mat off the table to make room, then turns to the back door to tell the big dog, who’s outside ringing the doorbell, that she’ll let him in shortly. The children both sit with you at the table explaining that after dinner you’ll all go outside and sit by the fire to share the chocolate chip cookies that they’ve made just for you. Happy holidays from the eleven year old girl, the blue eyed boy, the bionic husband and his limber wife. And the bell ringing dog.
“Let’s go… come on!” The twelve year old green-eyed girl is pulling one of your hands, and the shaggy blonde haired blue eyed boy has a grip on the other. You’re surprised by his strength…his hands seem big for an eight year old. You’ve just walked through the red door and they’re pulling you past the music covered piano into the dining room where you get a quick kiss from the wife. They propel you through the kitchen and out the back door. The husband looks up from loading the car and waves hello as you dance with the dog for precedence down the back steps. You notice that the dog no longer has a tail and make a note to ask about that later. The wife follows the chaos out the door and down the steps as the husband puts the dog in the car and you settle into the front seat. All five seat belts click and the blue eyed boy taps you on the shoulder…”they have the biggest dunes anywhere and we can run and jump and slide”. “And you can climb up the cypress trees and sit on top of the canopy and see the whole world”, says the green eyed girl. The wife is clearly happy that they’ve found a place they all love. The husband says he’s glad it’s only an hour’s drive. And the dog is plainly ready to play. With a big sigh, as if on cue, all four of them say, “we’re so happy you’re here”. You smile and settle into an hour of catching up and a day of California sunshine and sea breezes with people who care for you very much. Happy New Year from the girl who can see the whole world, the boy who jumps the tallest dunes, and the husband and wife who are happy to be together. And the tail challenged dog.
“Rug” you hear her command and smile at the thought of the big dog that you know will be on her heels as soon as she opens the door. And he is, shaking and wagging and begging for some love. She shrugs and sighs, kisses you hello and takes your coat, and leads you through the living room past a beautiful new table that wasn’t there last visit. You make a note to ask about it later. The thirteen year old green eyed girl jumps up from the yellow computer on the table when you enter, “Mom let me have a facebook page!” she laughs as she hugs you hello. Her nose is barely shy of yours as she reaches a kiss up to your cheek. The nine year old boy isn’t in sight and you open your mouth to ask about him as the husband hands you a beer and the wife goes to work washing lettuce but your words are lost. The beat coming out of the basement is steady and even and definitely rock and the wife keeps pace with the salad spinner and you know where to find the nine year old boy. “He’s taken up the drums” shouts the husband, smiling, “and his teacher says he’s really good”. You sit, you drink, and you enjoy the rhythm of the family. When the drumming subsides, the shaggy blonde haired boy bounds up the steps and stops for a brief hug. “Are you going to the river tomorrow with us? I’ll show you the creek.” “And we can play ping pong,” says his sister. “Please?” they sing in unison. You smile your agreement and they sigh together as they go about setting the table. You can’t think of a better place to be. Happy New Year from the well socialized girl, the boy who sets his own tempo, and the husband and wife who are so proud of them both. And the dog who can’t get enough love.
“five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes…how do you measure a year in the life…” You stand for a moment on the porch enjoying the power of the voice through the window. When you ring the bell the familiar scuffle of feet and paws makes you smile. The ten year old blue eyed boy opens the door and the big dog bounds out to be the first to welcome you. The boy looks you in the eye as he greets you and you are surprised at how much he’s grown up. As he leads you through the living room telling you all about the new game he is creating, the singing stops and his green eyed sister steps out of the hall to give you a kiss hello. You realize that the singing you heard was hers. The boy pulls you forward to show you his game…something about platforms and gravity he says. The husband and wife are in the kitchen sharing a bottle of wine and they hug you warmly and pour you a glass. You’ve barely taken a sip when the boy and girl interrupt. They both have so much to tell you. She’s in a play, he’s just returned from camp, high school is so much fun, elementary school is nearly over, there’s this cute boy, girls are still kind of icky. You chuckle and turn to their parents knowing that this has been a difficult year, but it is clear they are doing well. Everything is the same and it has all changed so much. We wish you happy holidays and a year measured in love. From the melodious girl, the tech savvy boy, the resilient husband and wife, and the energizer dog.
The doorbell definitely rang, you heard it through the door, but there is no familiar bark or scuffle of feet. You know that your visit is expected, so you walk back down the steps, across the grass and through the side gate. As the gate latch clatters, the familiar bark and scuffle bounds around the corner of the house in greeting. Luckily, considering his size, your four legged greeter knows better than to jump up for a closer hello. You find the blue eyed boy under the rose trellis aiming his bright orange weapon at the back end of the giant dog. He grins a hello. The green eyed girl, covered in mud, is standing in the grass wiping down a bicycle that she explains is her racing bike. She leans up to give you a kiss hello. The husband, even muddier than the girl, is smiling and directing the clean-up effort. He promises a hug once he’s done. The wife, who you see across the yard, is picking lettuce for your salad. She walks across the yard, avoiding the gun and her muddy family, and greets you with a kiss, then invites you upstairs to visit. You’re reassured, once you’ve settled in, that this year was easier than last and that the only complications have been the usual chaos of music lessons and mountain bike races, homework and the social lives of the under 18 set. One by one the family joins you in the dining room, all showered and ready to visit. The green eyed girl, tall as her mother, is a hard working sophomore in high school this year and the blue eyed boy is enjoying the freedom and independence of his first year of middle school. They’re both busy with their music, their friends, their growing lives. The husband and wife are enjoying their last few fleeting years raising the babies they brought into this world. We wish you happy holidays and a loving and joyful, if fleeting, 2011.
As you drive up to the house you are greeted by the blue eyed boy raking golden leaves into a pile right in your parking space. He laughs when you crumple the leaves under your tires, then sets down his rake to talk you into the house. He’s feeding bees at school, enjoying his three rats: Al, Dwight and Captain Kirk, loved playing football this year, and is getting ready for his bar mitzvah. All this he intersperses with comments about zombies, creepers and pink sheep that live in his computer world. Through the windows you see the green eyed girl at the piano, but the windows are closed tight against the cold so you don’t hear the singing until the red door opens. The music stops and the sixteen year old girl gets up to give you a kiss hello. You are glad she has stayed home to spend time with you. Her driver’s license has given her the freedom to come and go, and you know that she spends much of her time going. She walks you through the house, explaining the intricacies of filming a movie and there are words like boom and AV script that you hope she’ll define when she takes a breath. The wife is in the kitchen and sets down her spatula to give you a kiss hello and pour you a glass of wine. You notice the kitchen looks different and start to ask what’s changed when the husband comes around the corner, wiping paint on his multi-colored sweatshirt that looks like it used to be gray. He has a smudge of orange and a smudge of brown on his cheek as he shakes your hand and gives you the grand tour. They’ve added nine square feet and it feels like a million. You settle in for an evening of good food and conversation with people who are so happy you’ve come. With love from the sixteen year old girl on the go, the boy who lives in several worlds, and the grateful husband and wife. Oh yes, and the big dog who must have been in the garden when you arrived.
You walk up the steps toward the red door and see the wife sitting by the window….you know she is waiting for the white truck that won’t be coming again. As she opens the door to greet you her smile turns from wistful to happy you’ve come. You give her the hug that she needs then turn to greet the husband who is walking in from the kitchen to say hello and offer you his hand and something to drink. You understand that they’ve had a busy and sometimes trying year, but the house feels like it always does…happy to see you. You’re about to ask about the blue eyed boy and the green eyed girl when you hear gunshots coming from behind the glass door beneath the sign. The wife opens the door and the boy in the orange sweatshirt puts down his video controller and walks with you to the dining room table to say hello and tell you about his one remaining rat, his bar mitzvah, and something called ‘scratch’ that he says has to do with web design. He’s about to tell you about his job at Sunday school when the green eyed girl comes through the front door and greets you with a huge smile and a warm hug. She’s just home from work and has time for dinner and a visit before she goes back out again to sing with her a capella group. She tells you about her last year in high school, bike team, college applications and life with a boyfriend who is 4 hours away. The conversation is settling into a rhythm when the doorbell rings and the husband goes to let in the big white joyful dog. He bounds over, wags his tailless bottom and laps at the air around your face. It’s so nice to be loved…from the seventeen year old girl planning her future, the thirteen year old boy who’s no longer a child, the grateful husband and wife, and the big white dog.