The house is mostly dark, lit only by a lamp and the multi-colored lights on the Christmas tree. Christmas carols play quietly and the dogs are both snoring. All of this allows for a few moments of reflecting and foretelling. I’m sure I could find an appropriate hashtag to go below my stolen stock photo of a winter’s landscape that would sum up this whirlwind year (whirlwind few years, actually) but those two communications degrees make me yearn to wax poetic with much longer verse.
Here it is, although it won’t be near as brilliantly written as the whole snapshot metaphor from my cousin Laurel’s cards.
This year has been filled with some amazing firsts and I’m glad that Maddie, Zach and I each had a significant first of our own. I can be a creature of habit and routine but there is something undeniably important about firsts and about being pushed outside your comfort zone. I believe nothing is better for reviving the soul than throwing your head back and seeing the stars under a different sky.
Maddie found the wanderlust gene she gets from me and I get from her grandfather. In celebration of her sixteenth celestial orbit, the two of them set of to the United Kingdom determined to see as much of London as humanly possible in a short time. It was a stressful week for those of us watching their adventure from afar. They arrived in London just a few weeks after the attack on London Bridge and during the same week as the catastrophic fire at Grenfell Tower. These events did not dull their sense of adventure. In the end, it was wonderful to watch. I still remember so many details of both my first visit to London and the semester I spent there in college. I’m grateful Maddie had the opportunity to see first hand a city I love and admire so very much. The bright boards and lights of my much-beloved Piccadilly Circus were dark behind scaffolding but I’ve no doubt she saw the city for what it is and the beauty and resolve of her people.
Later in the summer, I had the fortune to check a very big item off of my own bucket list. I was able to spend two weeks in Sydney, Australia (which I wrote about here). I climbed the freakin’ harbour bridge, held a kangaroo and got the stink eye from a koala. Better still, I was able to spend it with a dear friend and was made to feel a part of his amazing family. I’m already saving my pennies in hopes they let me come back.
This fall, Zach tried out for the Schrade Middle School football team. In the beginning, he hated it. I think there was a disconnect between playing football with his friends in the park and actually being tackled by a very large kid. The “B Team” I understand made great tackling dummies. After a few weeks of grumblings and sore muscles he really did come into it. He found out how much fun he could have playing defense and although the 7:00am practices were way too early (especially for me) I think he learned a great deal.
As I sit here I realize all of these (and so many more) memories are better than anything I could find wrapped under the tree tomorrow.
I’m not just looking back, though. Rearview mirrors are easy to stare in, but eventually you’ve got to scrape the snow off the windshield (metaphorically, I do live in Dallas) and go forward. In this case, it’s forward into 2018.
In February, I’m taking Maddie for a long weekend in New York City. It’s a city I love, a city that is alive. There’s nothing on earth that compares to the blinding light and deafening buzz as you stand at the Crossroads of the World- Times Square. For four days, though, it’s going to be her city. I think the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Plaza Hotel and Central Park are just some of the things on her list. We’ll see a Broadway legend (thanks to her grandfather), a matinee or two, window shop on Fifth Avenue and maybe even go ice skating at Rockefeller Center.
After Maddie heads back to Texas, I will be joining a group of colleagues and friends as we talk the future of digital learning (gratuitous event plug here) and close out the 35th anniversary year of the National University Technology Network, a professional development association I’ve had the privilege of managing as part of my job for several years.
There’s going to be even more transition next year. Change, they say, is the only constant in the universe. Later in the summer, Dr. Pam Quinn, my boss and mentor of over eighteen years, is set to retire. It’s actually a very odd thing to wrap my head around. I’ve no doubt there are still great things ahead for her and it won’t take long for her to wonder how she ever had time to work.
Just a couple of years ago this wasn’t the Christmas Eve I pictured for myself, but here I am. Actually, here we are. Sometimes you sit up, look around and find you can be happy in the place and in its own time- even though it isn’t where you thought you would be. Life is funny that way whether you credit it to the Divine, karma or fate. Although we try to convince ourselves otherwise, we really aren’t the masters of our fates or the captains of our souls (cliche, I know) but the journey is so much better when our hands are off the wheel.
I end the year with more thanks than regrets. I’m thankful for opportunities, for adventures, for the health and happiness of my kids, for the loyalty and affection of friends that have become my family and, most of all, I’m thankful for the journey. Thanks for sticking with me, for letting me brag and gloat about my kids, for putting up with the countless photos of my dogs I post on Instagram and for helping make me, well, me. As you settle down on Christmas Eve, I hope your 2017 has been all you hoped. Treasure the great memories you’ve made and the people you’ve made them with. Treasure the falls, the hurt and the disappointment, too. They’re a big part of what defines us and they give us something to rise above.
After a few quiet moments of holiday-inspired reflection, scrape the snow off your windshield and drive.
But for tonight, at least, all is calm and, indeed, all is bright. [Be] Merry [this] Christmas [and always] and may peace begin as a light in each of us.
“For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne, we’ll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne.” -Robert Burns, 1788