Saturday, December 24, 2016

Faux Joy (Writing Down the Year)

Christmas Eve feels more like Christmas than the actual day. As a child, we opened our presents on Christmas Eve, a slow process where every one opened a gift one at a time. Stockings were opened in the morning, after a pan of pannu-kakku, a Finnish pancake slathered with butter and cinnamon and sugar. But now I'm an adult--opening gifts is relegated to the kids--and Christmas Eve is often when I begin to bake my cookies and write my letters and cards.

Writing becomes a reflective exercise--what happiness occurred since the last letter? What travels? What milestones achieved? I receive many family letters in the mail, and while I enjoy reading them, it always seems those families celebrate so much joy, so much unity and good times. The children excel, the family trips filled with smiling faces. I wonder--did anything shake the lives of these people I care about? Did anything scare them? Did their children become ill, or refuse school, or try to harm themselves? I hope not. I truly hope not. But I know my own letter masks the sadnesses we have encountered, the crises and fears and shattered hopes.

My letters and cards always go out late--it's the nature of the beast of someone on an academic schedule. I call them my New Year's cards. But if no cards or letters go out it's because the sadnesses were too much and too big to hide.

This year, I will write my letter. I will try to make it honest by touching on both happy events and those that filled me with grief. I am grateful that this year I can write a letter at all.

So in between batches of butter stars and nut biscottis, I will draft my words, find my pictures, commemorate another year passed.

May you find peace with those you love, and yourself...