For November – not quite a PSA

November 18, 2011

I’m still not sure how we ended up well into November, but here it is. Today there is snow on the ground and bits of snow still sticking to the trees, and I find myself thinking of the smell of wet wool, of digging out the holiday lights from their hiding place in the basement, of what kinds of cookies I want to bake this year.

Perhaps because the smell of the oncoming Christmas holiday is in the air (and to me, this year, it smells sweet, but I realize to many it’s something to dread), I wanted to share this video, which I think is brilliant. It’s a video essay on family, about how we talk about family, and about holiday cards. It’s smart, wry, and quietly powerful, and it will definitely be helping to shape my thoughts and words as I put together my own holiday cards this year.

One of the things that causes this video essay to resonate so deeply with me is the fact that it is created by someone I know and am lucky enough, occasionally, to work with. I work with her husband quite regularly. I didn’t know about this aspect of their lives until I stumbled on this essay. That shouldn’t be surprising, that I didn’t know. It’s not really the sort of thing you sit around discussing at the water cooler or throw into the small talk that takes place at the beginning of meetings. In spite of all that, I’m surprised.

Another instance of how many hidden griefs are out there, of all the things we don’t know about others and of all the reasons we have to be gentle with each other. Another reason to think more deeply and inclusively about what we mean by family.



  1. Thanks for sharing this. (And thanks for rooting for the Cardinals–that IS a big deal for a Cubs fan! I appreciate the gesture.)

  2. This is why I still find it hard to send Christmas cards – because even though I have the elusive kids now and we look like a regular family, I know someone is missing from ours that the world doesn’t see and I also know I have friends who would kill to have what we have, just one living child.
    It all sits un easy with me. Easier to just be a bit Grinchy.

  3. That WAS brilliant. Thanks so much for sharing it. I too have felt awkward sending out photos of “just” dh & I (but do it every now & then anyway)… & I have friends I haven’t seen in YEARS, although I get a photo of their kids every Christmastime. Once in awhile, I’d like to see a photo that includes them too.

  4. Brilliant indeed – I think everyone will be getting an e-holiday card from me this year and THAT will be it.

    And your friend, yes Enid and her husband ARE her family.

  5. Thanks for sharing this – I certainly took the notion of childbearing for granted before.

  6. I still love the Christmas letter, I still love the Christmas cards with photo’s, but I find myself at a bit of a loss. What about decorating? What about the traditions?

    Do they matter? Am I some sort weird freak? Is it even possible to have a traditional Christmas without children?

    I won’t have children. I will have, oh, generously another 60 years of Christmas with no children.

    So what do I do? Do I give up on my favourite holidays? Do I spend every Christmas without celebrating? Take myself to expensive adult only resorts? I did that last year and it had it’s own loveliness. In the end, I’m not sure it felt like Christmas.

    I am not the happy ending to the dead baby story. I am not the warm and comfy Christmas card.

    I am still real. I do still love Christmas.

    • I think about this, about how alienated I felt during the Christmas after Teddy’s death, and also about how my friends and family without children, who wanted/want children, are coping with the barrage of messages about Christmas that seem so very wrapped up in the idea of traditional nuclear families.

      So often people say, “Christmas is really for the children,” but I think accepting that diminishes Christmas (that’s the remains of my tattered faith speaking, I think) and diminishes us as human beings. I think Christmas is and should be for everyone who can bring a childlike sense of wonder and love and appreciation to the season of lighting up the darkness. Which doesn’t mean it’s easy, especially for those who don’t fit the “Christmas card family” expectations.

      That’s not an answer, but I don’t think I could offer you one to do your questions justice.

  7. I’m so very sorry for the loss of your Teddy. I came across your blog this evening after just having opened up early Christmas gifts sent to us from my parents in law and in the box were three gifts for our cat, which we always appreciate but it sent me wondering about what is my family now? My son Liam’s due date is tomorrow but he came to us too early in August and died. There would have been gifts for our Liam in that box too, not just for the cat. I would have also be signing Liam’s name on our Christmas cards but we’re back to only signing the cat’s name again. Thank you for sharing this video, brilliant yes, and exactly what I needed to see this evening.

  8. Thank you so much for sharing this video.

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