Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Christmas

I just got back to Albany after a week-long vacation in Madison (part of why the blogging has been light in the past week). The family always spends Christmas together, but this time we had two new (to me) family members, my stepdad and stepsister. We had a lot of fun playing a game that can't be bought in a store, which we called "Word Storm." (I'll explain it in a later post so you can play it too.) We mixed some of our old Christmas traditions with some new traditions. We cooked dinner and breakfast together.

We watched a home video of our old family, shot with a rented camcorder in early 1987, when I was 5 years old. Though most of the video is unavoidably boring, I always watch it eagerly anticipating the occasional flashes of humor or insight. At one point, my mom asks me if I have a message for the grown-up John watching this in the future. My answer: "Travel all over the world." In another scene, she asks what I think of our family, and I respond, "I think we have a very nice family, and we have lots and lots of fun -- with the whole world being white." Huh? No, I wasn't raised by white supremacists; I was holding a white paper napkin up to the camera lens and joking about my state-of-the-art special effects.

I gave that answer with such gleeful enthusiasm that it's hard to imagine I was just saying what I thought I was supposed to say. Having Christmas in 2009 with a family I wouldn't have recognized even last year, I thought back to the young John -- how little he knew but also how important some of the things he knew were. I felt saddened to think: here we are, a very nice new family that could have been having lots of fun together for the past couple decades. I immediately corrected myself: no, that's impossible, things could only have happened exactly as they did. Whether they should have happened another way is irrelevant now. You can only go forward into the future. But you can still remember the things you knew when you were 5 years old.


Richard Lawrence Cohen said...


Ann Althouse said...

Aw, thanks. Beautifully written. I've gone through similar mental gymnastics about the happiness that could have been, and it's beautiful to think that we had a "very nice family" then and now. If only everything could always be so beautiful.

Meade said...

Thanks, John. I love the thoughts and feelings you've expressed and I'm looking forward to lots of fun together in the next couple decades.