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The Fourthiest Kowalewski Family Christmas Card Letter
Here it is. The fourth annual Kowalewski Christmas Card Letter. This is the year you start to read it, get about halfway down this page, then set the letter aside saying you’ll read it later and you’ll say you used to really like Don’s Christmas letter, but now? It just seems “a bit much.” You’re right. The Christmas Card letter is long, self-serving, and probably a little unnecessary. But you need to hear my opinions on the election, Politics, vaccines, and much, much more. This is going to be the most controversial Christmas Card letter you’ve ever read. If I do this right, I might be uninvited to Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and most future social gatherings and Kathy will be forced to apologize for me for years. But first, let’s talk about my family.
Let’s start with Kathy. She’s halfway through year-two at St. Regis teaching middle-school math. Year two is better than year one. Which makes sense. 2 > 1. Look at that. I could ace her class, I just know it. She went from 20+ years teaching little kids to teaching middle-schoolers. It was definitely an adjustment. There are 100% less glue sticks, crayons, and art-projects with glitter in a middle-school math curriculum. Plus, she theorizes the kids, themselves, are a little better this year with one more year getting back into the routine after quarantine school. But here’s my theory. Kathy is a better teacher this year, too. Because, well, she taught elementary school for all those years and now she teaches middle school and . . . well, I can best “sum” it up this way…
Wanna know what I’m up to? Do you remember what my career milestone was last year? You don’t? Well, this Christmas-Card update thing won’t work if you don’t keep my past letters handy to reference and kinda read them like a story book. I’m into my second year in a leadership position at iHeartMEDIA, my third year since coming back to iHeart, and my 18th total year at iHeart (that could be a math equation or story problem all by itself). In March of this year, I went on a college reunion trip to Indianapolis with a buncha old frat brothers, and that warmed the heart and filled the soul. With each passing year, time with my family and my friends become more important to me. Time passes so quickly. Friendships fade. So when you get together and it feels like only yesterday you were sitting on a disgusting couch in the frat house laughing so hard you couldn’t sit upright, and 30 years later the same thing is happening …well …I feel lucky.
How lucky am I? How about lucky enough to be married to Kathy for 25 years! Yup. That happened in 2022. We celebrated 25 years and went on vacation to Jamaica. Same(ish) place we went on our honeymoon. For whatever reason, if you can believe it, it was the first Kathy-Don-only vacation in nearly 20 years. And ya know what? We still get along (the unlimited booze helped). At least I think we do and it was an amazing trip. I just hope Kathy doesn’t send her own Christmas letter disputing this claim.
Moving onto Marylin. She’s in her 2nd year at Michigan State University. Majoring in Human Development and Family Studies and minoring in Youth and Society. I think she has a double minor. Or a minor double. More math. Yeesh. Marylin’s doing great. Loving her major. Has a job. Still doing the sorority thing. Living in the Sorority house. Loving that, too. What I loved most was having her home all summer. I don’t know how parents have done it for all these years and generations …just letting their kids grow up and move out and go out on their own. I wasn’t ready for that. I missed her when she was away at college. It was awesome having her home for the summer. Even though she worked, like, three jobs and was always hanging out with her high-school friends. I barely saw her. But I saw her enough that I missed her all over again when she went back for her sophomore year.
Are you still reading? This is the point in the letter where you think, “hmmm? Not nearly as funny as in the past,” and you set the letter aside. Don’t worry. Like a Yellowstone season …it starts slow, but then really picks up speed.
Telling you about Jimmy, my high-school senior, will get this letter rockin’!!! He’s a senior at Brother Rice. He’s doing the whole college plannin’ thing. Already been accepted to Michigan State and waiting to hear from a few other choices, and I’m trying not to bias his decision, and I say terrible things about MSU’s football and basketball coaches all the time, but it hasn’t soured him. His 8.7 GPA (yep, that’s right …beat that!!! Ya can’t. Christmas cards are about shameless self-promotion and subtle family factoids that don’t mean to sound like bragging, but totally are bragging). So, 8.7 GPA. Senior year. Pretty set on Pre-med. He made the Varsity soccer team and had a great season – a season that ended too early with an unexpected playoff loss, but it’s OK. Well, no it’s not. I don’t care that his team lost …wins and losses are a part of sports. What’s most sad is knowing I’ve likely watched his last competitive soccer match. I’ve coached him since he was 5. Him and a few of his teammates actually. So this is a year of “lasts”. Which I’ve gone through before, but it’s never easy. Last competitive soccer match. Last homecoming dance. But it’s fun watching him live all these great moments with his friends and I remind him all the time … you only get one shot at high-school and only one senior year. Live it up. Soak it in. Someday you’ll rent a house with all these guys and laugh like fools at how dumb you were “way back when” while acting, hopefully, just as dumb. He’s still driving the rusty, old, stick-shift Jeep. Working at Beyond Juice. Playing guitar (and occasionally letting me sing along).
How about Ada? She’s a sophomore. She’s on Varsity Field Hockey. She’s on Varsity Pom Pon. She’s Secretary of her Sophomore class. And she’ll be playing Lacrosse again in the spring. I guess the biggest thing you should know about Ada is that she turned 16. She’s driving. On her own. Crazy thing when your “baby” pulls away in a car by herself. You swear you’re gonna get a call from Child Protective Services. I wonder if I’ll ever NOT think of her as a 12-year-old? She got her braces off. Ada had a job as a hostess, babysits a little, but she’s looking for something new. So if you know of a job for a 16-year-old that pays alot, is close to our house, and is really flexible for a 3-sport athlete, please email me. Betcha not many of your Christmas Card Letters have a dual purpose as some sorta CraigsList Help-Wanted ad, eh?
And as long as this letter is becoming the Classified section of a newspaper . . . Wanted …2 Taylor Swift tickets. Probably my biggest failure as a father, ever. Despite my job in media/radio, and despite the fact I’ve gotten dozens of tickets over the course of their lives, my inability to score Taylor Swift tickets made 2022 pretty much the worst year, ever. Taylor Swift should write another sad song about girls not getting tickets to her show.
I mentioned the Guys Weekend. And the 25th Anniversary Trip. We did the annual Torch Lake vacation with Dave, Melissa, Lauren, Spencer, Grandpa Mustache (aka Bill Kowalewski …but he’s Grandpa …and he has a mustache ..and the other Grandpa doesn’t …hence, he’s “grandpa mustache”), and Grandma Sally. We hosted Thanksgiving, again. And this time? I cooked the turkeys to PERFECTION!!! Spatchcock cooked them. Look it up. Don’t worry. You can Google “spatchcock” at work and not get fired. What I loved is that our Thanksgiving grew to 23 people. The more the merrier, I say. There were 12 crockpots. 2 turkeys. Rolls. Side dishes. 5 pies? Maybe? I lost count. I hope everyone had fun and felt as thankful as I felt. Some of our new Thanksgiving guests had found themselves alone for Thanksgiving, so they joined our party. And, now, those we lost? Their spirits are with us on Thanksgiving.
I started this letter talking about my reunion trip with my college buddies. Sometimes I think my college years were the best years of my life and those frat brothers are the best friends I’ll ever have. Then I think about the huge Thanksgivings of my childhood and think, no, wait, that was the best. Or as I think about Jimmy heading off to college and thinking I won’t see him downstairs at his Xbox laughing online with his buddies or pulling away in the rusty Jeep, maybe the years with all my kids under my roof were the best years. But what I’m realizing is, if you do this life right, and if you’re living every moment to the fullest, you’re always experiencing the “best days of your life” and so we shouldn’t dwell on the past, or always be looking to the future and better days ahead. Nope. We should enjoy today.
Like, I hope you enjoyed THIS letter, THIS year. But if you’re thinking my previous letters were better, or hoping maybe my next year’s letter will be better, well, I see your point. But I enjoyed writing this letter and addressing every envelope and reading your name, thinking of you, and I promise I said a little prayer for you or laughed about some classic moment we shared.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
The Kowalewski Family