December is cold and dark at 5000 feet and nearly 44 degrees north of the equator in Rexburg, Idaho. In summer it was warm and dry and smoky, as other places burned. Smoke in Glacier Park obscured mountain views when Maria met John there in August, and friends in Paradise lost their home to wildfire in November (with many others). Elsewhere hurricanes and floods wreaked destruction. We endured comparatively little turmoil, but we did learn how to brighten your life: borrow babies. That’s right; it turns out that parents with twins will typically welcome assistance. So now Maria wakes up to “Baby Signing Time” songs in her head and hears phantom babbles and cries around the house. Our weekday and Sunday mornings are livelier, thanks to time with the Anderson boys, Neal and Glen. Maria hasn’t looked forward to mornings like this since she was a child; our life as pseudo-grandparents (aka Auntie Ria & Uncle John) has been a lot of fun. Weary parents don’t mind the break, and two medical miracles means we both get the play and affection we evidently need.
I thought the letter should be an extended meditation on the year’s joys as auxiliary parents, but Maria says to make it funny. This disappoints me, for I feel that I have so much more to offer through thoughtful observation and reflection, and she just wants a jester for hire. I offer depth and humanity and she wants glibness and snark. It reminds me of my life at work. I joke about my wife there too.
So on to the snarky: Maria says that time with the boys makes her feel younger, but does it show? She cheers poopy diapers, yet only I “can” change the cat litter (still). She has those songs on her mind and lullabies the boys to sleep, but “can’t” go with me to choir practice. She has gigabytes of pictures and videos of the twins on her Facebook page, phone, and laptop, yet lives for the 30-second video their mom compiles at month’s end. Should our own children visit (in person or online), they see signs of her true love everywhere. There are cribs in two bedrooms, and toys in the family room, along with food and diaper paraphernalia. She arranges baby time for Jordan and Hailey (our local couple), though it’s unclear that this will inspire the emergence of actual grandchildren anytime soon. And yet with no direct familial legacy implicated in the boys’ development, we can celebrate happy milestones and delight in silliness, but also laugh when they vex their overworked parents. I think it might not be so easy to laugh at the struggles and fits of your own children’s children. You can now rent pets (ask Hannah); is that what we are doing with the twins? I think we’re more invested.
In fact I had more to say about them, but tradition (Maria) requires news about our grown-up family. Neighbors took me backpacking in Glacier Park along the Continental Divide Trail—splendid. Maria visited family in Oregon a few times; I went with her once to see them and to soak my battered feet in the Pacific. She did a craft fair this fall and made more money than she expected, though not enough to compensate her time. We sponsored a little family reunion in Salt Lake City in June, with “hikes” and tours of gardens, aquarium, and candy factory, excursions to Golden Spike and Spiral Jetty, a
baseball game, a movie, and too little game time (for some). Brooke went back to school this fall for graduate training in communication disorders. This will not qualify her to improve our family interactions or people’s post office orders (she has illustrations), but it will prepare her to give speech therapy in coming years. Jordan’s job in online retail outlasted the brick and mortar craft store when its owners retired. Hailey moved beyond the “administrative assistant” ranks at her firm. Hannah simplified her life by dropping one part-time job and gaining a full-time job at the Springville art museum. Riley learned more of the ropes of the solar energy business. Jordan and Hailey went camping in Idaho and touring in Montana; Brooke and Hannah took a winter holiday in Europe; Riley worked like crazy and broke it up with marathon board and video games.
None of that was very funny, nor was it very deep. If you want depth, read a book, a good one. Try the prophets; they see irony but are not glib. Or play with infants. Most of all, remember the Redeemer. He was once a little child, but look what He did. Happy Christmas and Peace to you.