Chaos surrounds me; paper, books, and errant sponge curlers litter the kitchen table, and I don’t even want to turn to look at the playroom behind me. Lego pieces took over this morning; various piles of colored blocks, raided to complete sets or craft personal creations and parental booby traps.
Two piles of envelopes contribute to the table’s mess: Christmas cards and thank you notes.
I started strong with Christmas cards, powering through part of my list and then stalling in the face of last-minute shopping, baking, and trying to fit in my work hours while at least attending to the kids at meal times. Pajama days reigned supreme this break, and I’m mostly fine with that, except for those lingering cards and the countless other organizational tasks that fell apart the last couple of weeks.
Late cards still count, I hope. The wishes for happy holidays stretch into the new year after all.
For the most part, I could tuck away the thank you notes for another day. A quick email isn’t the worst way to say thank you, especially when accompanied by a candid shot of the kids enjoying their new books, toys, or building sets.
The blue and silver cards remain. We work on them in bursts, from yet another list I made with the kids’ help. I furrow my brow and pretend I’m not sure who gave what, because it makes me smile to hear how quickly they recall the givers as well as the gifts.
Abbey adds personal notes to some of them. Dylan started with lofty intentions but now just writes, “Thank you. Love Dylan,” sometimes with an extra heart and sometimes with an exclamation point, depending on what he’s in the mood to do.
I address theirs and write my own.
My hand tires a little, and some part of me nags at myself that there is likely something more important to do in this time: extra laundry or putting away some of the things that have been displaced lately.
I keep going. With each signed card and envelope licked, I remember moments of celebration this Christmas: trying to get a photo of the kids and their cousin in oversized gift bags, playing at the playground during our unseasonably warm Christmas day, the first taste of my mom’s annual batch of pumpkin bread.
Mom drilled the practice of thank you cards into my head and my fingers during my childhood, and her example of practicing gratitude still reaches across the miles between our homes.
I can tick off thankfulness lists on my fingers, but sometimes I don’t take the time to really reflect on the people and experiences making up the moments worth remembering. With three of us at the table together, talking and laughing about our holiday, I feel my gratitude flexing and expanding. The chaos becomes less important as I remember how many giggles echoed in my ears the last couple of weeks; tiredness and too much noise and petty arguments fall away in the face of that laughter.
I hope they feel it, too, the love behind the gifts they opened under the various trees that made up our Christmas. Saying thank you, in our imperfect handwriting, is our way of sending love right back.