The Kowalewski Family Christmas Card Letter (2019 Edition)
This is it. More than a decade in the making. The Kowalewski Family Christmas Card Letter. And by that, I mean Don’s Christmas Card Letter. No members of my family know about this. I raised-my-hand to stuff and mail all the Christmas cards and that allowed me to write this letter and sneak it into the Christmas card without anyone knowing (as they tricked me a couple years ago when they snuck our dog into our Christmas Card, which I was very much opposed to).
Like all cards, I want to update you on the fam’. Marylin, a Junior at Marian High School, is considering colleges and taking ACTs and SATs, and wrote two songs for two different artists currently in the Billboard Top-40. Jimmy, a Freshman at Brother Rice, is hard at work spreading the word about his App that allows kids to wager on high-school sports (an untapped gold mine of sports wagering), and Ada, a 7th Grader at St. Hugo, is excited about her cookbook that’ll hit stores in June and she’ll start her book tour.
Christmas cards are often too braggy. Not my style. And most of you already know everything about my family because of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, my Blog, or maybe even my Podcast …oh, you didn’t know about my Podcast? Ahem. No big deal. We have a dozen regular listeners.
I like getting year-end Christmas letters. I wish more people wrote one. Reading about what my friends are up to is a lot more fun than simply ranking and rating all your cards based on color scheme, design, quality of pictures (all your kids are gorgeous …no, I mean it), guessing how much thought you put into the pictures, and how much you spent on the cards (I’m looking at you, tri-fold-card family with 18 pictures and cinnamon-scented envelope!).
This Christmas letter is inspired by time. There’s no time like the present. We don’t have as much time as we think we do. When will it be my time? How many times did I want to write a Christmas letter? How many times did I chicken out because I thought, “ah, heck, nobody wants to read about anything going on with us.” Plus, who has the time to actually write one of those things? Who among my friends would actually take the time to read my way-too-long letter? Don’t I have better things to do with my time?
But I’m the guy that recently told my kids this …if you have to choose between doing something and doing nothing ..do something. Dance. Say, “hello” to everyone. Go to every party you can (but make sure you’re invited …sorry, McGregor family …you didn’t need to call the cops, I was just leaving). Go to every dance, football game, and sleepover you can. Soak up life. You get to be a high-schooler, a teenager, exactly one time. Make the most of that time. Kathy tells me all the time, “we have limited time with these kids under our roof,” and so we go on vacations (our first-ever cruise earlier this year) we can’t afford and maybe spend a little more money than we should on certain things that lead to more togetherness. Kathy’s right. I know it. There. It’s in writing. “Kathy’s right.” That’s her Christmas present.
Sorry to crush your Kringle. Losing one of my best friends, Matt, in late 2018 made 2019 a sad year, but also an inspired one. When I spoke at his funeral I said something about me being his most-handsome friend (nobody talks about that) and, more importantly, about time.
T = Take time for those around you; and we don’t know how much time we have
It’s true. The guy (me) with a Blog and who spends too much time on social media said to himself, every year, “next year I’ll write a Christmas letter.” Next year I’ll try telling stories at The Moth. Next year I’ll join my best-friend, Chad, on his annual MSU road trip. Next year I’ll mend fences, ask for forgiveness of people I’ve hurt and forgive others, that I’m angry with, in my heart. Next year I’ll lose weight. Next year I’ll check everything off my Bucket List.
Sometimes there isn’t a next year.
Looking back on 2019, I have much to celebrate. Kathy is back teaching Second Grade in her own classroom (versus teaching reading and computers for the past few years). It’s her groove. She was born to be a teacher and Second Grade Teacher looks good on her. There is a twinkle in her eye (though that could be the nightly glass of Trader Joe’s Shiraz-Merlot boxed-wine blend). Marylin is a Junior, she is in college-choosing mode, had a great Field Hockey season, and works 3 or 4 jobs. Hardest working kid I know. Jimmy started high-school and is doing great. He mows lawns for neighbors, played soccer at Rice, and he’s officially taller than me (not exactly a major accomplishment, but in a short-person family, “tall” is big news). Oh, and he plays guitar. I recognize the songs. He’s that good. And I sing along. And then he stops playing whenever i start singing. No fun. Ada dances and dances and dances (beautifully) about 33 hours a week, played soccer (my last year coaching …sigh), and she really is a wiz in the kitchen. Next year I’ll lose weight. Our dog is our dog. The family won’t let me get rid of her …sigh. We spent our annual week at Torch Lake. We went on a cruise with brother Dave’s family. I bought an old, beat-up, classic Jeep Wrangler TJ, which doesn’t seem worthy of a Christmas letter, but it has revealed the mid-life crisis I didn’t know I was having. Jimmy and I went to Uncle Dan’s U.P. compound again for a long weekend and swam under waterfalls. Kathy and the girls went for a long weekend at Uncle Wally and Aunt Karen’s and they’re still laughing about Uncle Wally’s Scattegories skills. As usual, we went to Grandpa Jimmy’s (who celebrated his 80th birthday, this year) cabin-in-the-woods on every long holiday weekend and fished, pontooned, bonfire’d, and played Sorry (yes, that classic board game) as if it was an Olympic sport. Our great friends, the Cooks, got back to Michigan and we tricked them into coming over for dinner – it was as-if we get together once-a-month even though it’s been nearly 20 years. Kathy and I joined our (crazy) friend Dave (aka Jetpack) at his Club Night (actually he called it a Glow Party) he pushed to get at Beaumont’s Children’s Hospital and it was amazing. I hope the kids enjoyed it.
I threw in that Jetpack-Beaumont thing and my friend Dave because he, too, is mourning life without Matt. One day at lunch, we came up with the idea to bring his unique entertainment brand to sick children who are stuck in hospitals. Dave (aka Jetpack) attacked pursued the idea with all his heart, soul, and reckless abandon because he, too, knows time is not promised to us. He has his passion for music and changing moods, and he made it happen …and definitely changes moods. I have a passion for writing, making people laugh a little, and spreading a little joy and inspiration, so I’m making time for that.
With all I’ve listed above, you might wonder what was the best thing that happened to me in 2019? Here it is …the Jeep. No. I’m kidding. The most favoritist thing that happened to me in 2019 was finally being able to host Thanksgiving (I’m pretty much Clark Griswold). We have years and years of memories of Thanksgivings at my Dad’s (aka Grandpa Mustache’s) and Grandma Sally’s house, but I told him if ever hosting, and the cleaning, cooking, set-up, and clean-up that goes along with hosting Thanksgiving …if ever it proves too much, just say the word and Kathy and I will host. This year, it happened (and maybe my cash bribe and angry threats played a part).
Thanksgiving is about one more. Maybe just one more appetizer before dinner. Maybe just one more beer. One more drink before you head for home. Maybe one-more helping of stuffing or turkey (for me it’s Special Corn …I would eat that whole bowl). One-more roll (even though I’m Keto and gluten-free). After dinner? One-more piece of pie (Grandma Sally’s crumble-top apple pies were life-changing …maybe Grandma Kowalewski’s/My Mom’s/Sister Dana’s apple pies aren’t the only way to make apple pie). Or one more cookie. And then, OK, one more cuppa coffee or one more glass of wine. Before we leave, one more hug. One more quick conversation.
For me? Thanksgiving holds my favorite memories. I don’t know how many Thanksgivings we had at Aunt Denise’s house when we were kids, but I think I celebrated 78 Thanksgivings there from 1973-1987ish. And then 6 or 7 more at Aunt Denise and Uncle Jerry’s house on Gull Lane (no need to check the facts, those numbers are irrefutable). Everyone was at my Aunt Denise’s Thanksgivings. Always. Everyone was there. Even though everyone wasn’t there, in my memories, it was always the same and was the best time.
I don’t remember the first time we stopped going to Aunt Denise’s or when things changed, but I’m thankful my Thanksgivings have always been special. Thankful for such a great family.
But I wish I could have one more. Even as I welcomed everyone into my home for my family’s first Thanksgiving, I wondered if we should’ve just had one more Thanksgiving at my Dad’s house.
I really do this. Sometimes I daydream and wish I could have just ..one …more Thanksgiving over there in Shelby Township with all my cousins, with my Grandma and Grandpa there sitting at that little round table with all the other Grandmas and Grandpas. Wish I could have one more Thanksgiving with my Mom and Uncle Jerry, and then a long weekend with Kathy’s Mom and Dad after Thanksgiving. One more where I play video games with my cousin Scott in their little office room or playing ping pong downstairs. And someday when Kathy and I can’t host Thanksgiving anymore, I’ll wish for one more year with everyone in my home.
Of course, it wasn’t about where we had Thanksgiving, it was about being together. About spending time together.
If you’ve actually taken the time to read this far …thank you. Merry Christmas. Happy New Year. May you and I have one more year …OK, many more years. I wish I really did have the time to call you all, visit you all, or spend time with you all, but such is life. I anxiously await pictures and updates from you on social media Here’s my Christmas wish … that every new day you make the time of your life.
Until next year …Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Birthday 2020, Happy Thanksgiving 2020 and I’ll write to you next year.
The Kowalewski Family
P.s. except for you, McGregor family. You know what you did.