Every year about Thanksgiving time my husband is filled with dread when he realizes that it is time to write our annual Christmas letter. He always wants me to write the letter and I remind him that I shop, wrap, decorate, bake, address envelopes and everything else. Writing this letter is the only thing I ask of him. Sometimes I offer to trade him responsibilities but the thought of shopping fills him with even more dread so I end up winning. Lest he come off sounding like he doesn't do his share around here let me explain that I love Christmas and everything about it. Buying gifts gives me pleasure and I start months ahead of time. As a professor, my husband is busy grading right until just days before Christmas. If I had to wait for him to be available, it would drive me crazy so our division of labor works out quite well for us. He works hard to earn the money and I gladly spend it. And I think everyone who reads our letter is glad that I win the argument because his letters are far more entertaining than mine would be. So without further ado...
Thomas Family Christmas, 2011: Since some of you are busy, and others can’t read complex sentences anymore because of internet use, I’ll start with headlines: Hannah graduates from high school; Jordan returns from mission; Maria produces gallstones; Brooke presses on with gimpy foot; John writes another Christmas letter.
Maria avoided adventures this year; she is, at heart, a keeper of the hearth, and she’s also kept her gall bladder despite the doctor’s advice. Doubtless she’s saving energy (or gall) for next year, which brings two BIG anniversaries—25 years of marriage, and twice that many years of actual life. Please share your best celebration ideas, and if you’re free on Labor Day weekend 2012, drop everything and rally round the birthday girl. Mark your calendars, save your pennies, and help us make it a party to remember! Though she stayed at home when others roamed, she traveled the globe via Facebook and blogs—and that’s real, right? She says a cell phone nurtures relationships with her children, and she got a hug once from Jordan. She also kept a watchful eye on her parents. She writes a blog, inspired by my gentle reminder that “it’s not always about you.” The name? “About Me and other things.”
Brooke has a blog too—“I need a little fabulous.” The name was inspired by “High School Musical,” so—what? She returned to school at BYU in January and prospers while she worries. Obviously all were thrilled when she rejected editing, one practical use of her major—let’s keep things theoretical! Maybe she can make a living by writing cheerful notes to needy people like members of Congress or college athletic administrators. And if you’re Prince Charming, she’s waiting. Brooke has the smallest feet in our family (not counting cats) and apparently one of them gave up and cried “tendinitis” last week, so now she wears a special “shoe” to comfort and support it. She loves church life and leads a society of women in her ward, stirringly named Provo YSA 258. She would want us to remember, however, that people are not numbers. People are more like snowflakes—fragile, flighty, and hard to manage in bunches.
Recently Maria and I saw a rambunctious production of “The Drowsy Chaperone” on campus. It features amusing if flaky characters and songs, including an intrusive and awkward narrator (hmm). No doubt you can respect a play that mocks cell phone intrusions. As patrons of the arts, we also watched “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” at a theater in Montana (where Maria got the birthday treatment on stage) and “Seussical” in Utah. But I suppose the theatrical prize would have to go to Hannah, who saw “The Wizard of Oz” in London’s theater district. She even got an autograph from Michael Crawford after the show—the capstone of a fun-filled 18th birthday that included a visit to the Tower of London, the National Gallery and the House of Commons. Dad accompanied her, ever the dutiful parent.
Hannah got that British excursion with Dad and colleagues because Maria thought it a nice graduation gift. Let’s see, after graduation the eldest went to Illinois, the next to MesoAmerica, and the youngest to Britain. Can all eldest children see a pattern here? It reminds me of those special times with my dad at the Laie sewage plant—only the firstborn get treats like that. But our baby awoke to life’s realities when she moved away and got a job at the busiest Subway sandwich shop in the nation—at BYU’s Cougareat food court. She had some choice observations about the hordes who gather in Provo each August for “Education Week”—she’d like to give some of them a little education! College life stretches her, but we hope she has some fun along the way (song, dance, Humanities, platonic romance).
A year after Jerusalem, John was walking “England’s mountains green,” thinking of the romantics, Bible translators, and Mormon missionaries, among other things. It was ten days of sweet memories, including sun and wind atop Pendle Hill; climbing Herefordshire Beacon above clouds and fields; revisiting the wonders of the Lake District in company with a dear old friend and his wife; perusing Bible collections at Oxford’s Bodleian Library; and finding time for worship and reflection in and around the Preston and London Temples, as well as St. Paul’s cathedral and humbler chapels in town and country. The epilogue was reading gravestones of some English ancestors with Jordan at a cemetery in Nephi, Utah—the markers of pioneering pilgrims whose faith carried them across the Atlantic and on to the mountain west.
Jordan lived the demanding and disciplined life of a missionary in Georgia till August 18. Then he got home to his “posse,” earbuds, and the leisurely life of a college student. Doting parents provide room and board and hope for an occasional visit with the boy. He has little time for conversation, chores, or even meals at home, so busy pursuing the “exalted state” of marital bliss, along with academic pursuits. He’s leaning toward Economics or something else involving money (hopefully not just theoretical money). Loving him as we do, we try to help clear his path to bliss with loving calls to keep a sane schedule, clean the house, and get a job so he can drive his own car.
In all, Christmas was simpler when our kids weren’t adults. But it’s still a great reminder of the things that matter most. We hope it’s joyful for you, with good things yet to come. Don’t forget Mariapalooza in September 2012!