Boise Kukla 2020 Christmas Letter
Dear Friends and Family,
One of the Kukla Christmas Traditions is watching the movie Christmas Vacation. That’s right, of all the hallmark movies, ol’ time greats, and fun animated fare… the one and only one we watch every year is Christmas Vacation. And every year we crack up laughing at the same moments as the year before.
I love it for more than just the humor aspect. I love it for fact that it’s the perfect Christmas movie. The diamond in the rough of the movie is that within the gags and gaudy is a deep heart for family and a desire to wrangle chaos into some kind of order – to birth something beautiful against all odds.
It’s also a perfect commentary in 2020… as things spiral out of control for Clark and the larger Griswold family tensions rise and climax with this conversation:
Where do you think you’re going? Nobody’s leaving. Nobody’s walking out on this family Christmas. No, no. We’re all in this together. This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here. We’re gonna press on, and we’re gonna have the hap-hap-happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny Kaye. And when Santa squeezes his ass down that chimney tonight he’s gonna find the jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nut house….
Clark, I think it’s best if everyone just goes home. Before things get worse.
Worse? How could they get any worse? Take a look around you, Ellen. We’re at the threshold of hell.
Son? I love you. We all love you. But this is a terrible night. Nothing’s gone right. It’s a disaster. You losing your temper with the whole family only makes things worse. You’re too good a father to act like this. In years to come, you’ll want your family to remember all the love you gave us. And how hard you tried to make the perfect Christmas.
There is a lot of Kukla spirit in the Griswold family. The more things go wrong the more stubborn pride and unwillingness to give up kick in. I’m not saying we take a chain saw to the newel post… but we aren’t far off. And frankly, if nothing else we try to raise our kids to be Clark Griswold. Clark for their family… but also for their community, for justice, for the world. Raising stubborn children isn’t easy. But it’s something we foster. Kids with their own minds who want to work with others but without comprising the goal and a shared vision for what the world SHOULD be and not just what it is. Not losing our tempers… but also not losing a passion for continuing to wrangle what is into what it should be.
You all know what this year has been like. I don’t really need to tell you any of that. We figured out online band… and online school… we started and stopped sports more times than I can count… we had to improve the internet for all the work going on in the house and yet they won’t come in the house to install it right so perhaps my favorite picture of 2020 is Meredith’s bedroom window which is permanently slightly ajar to have an internet line go through it and then packed with paper towels as homemade insulation. And instead of a bookshelf, she has a wifi tower.
2020 may have robbed us of many things… but it also gifted us memories. We ate more meals as a full family in the last year than in the three years before that! There was a lot of laughter… some a bit maniacal but still laughter. We overcame so many hurdles – and we will remember the overcoming more than the hurdles themselves. And there are a lot of tools in our belt that were not there before March. We spent more time talking to extended family in 2020 than we did for… ever. I mean it. With ZOOM extended family conversation, I probably had more minutes of conversation with extended family in 2020 than I did with those folks for my whole life before that. That’s a gift! A gift we created but also was created by the circumstances. A gift that was created by adapting to adversity and wrangling a loving environment out of chaos.
In 2020 Elizabeth became a vegetarian. It’s all kinds of chaos for the cooks. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. She took a stand and there was no stopping her. Tonight, while we are having ham… she will be having tofu. We now consistently make two meals. But she has a personal value and she is not giving it up. And headache or not… that’s awesome.
2020 scares me a bit for her and Meredith, they are our most introverted kids and while they thrived this year it didn’t exactly help any “teamwork” development. Fortunately… they live in a house where “privacy” is hard to come by and daily chores are a practice in getting along. Meredith jumped headfirst into a highly gifted class this fall. She skipped an entire year of math… and had to catch up to all her classmates all while managing her fear that she didn’t belong AND online school…. And she did nothing but leap over every benchmark set in front of her.
In the Spring I walked up to give Warren lunch at halftime during a soccer game he was ref’ing. And he was crying. He had called a horrible half. Made multiple mistakes and missed calls and everyone knew it. I had to get him to do some deep breathing. But then he took two bites of lunch, and went back out there (I stayed and watched), and called a good second half. He has always been our sensitive kid. He cried as a kid when we threw away an old toothbrush! He feels every mistake and every injustice… and we’ll keep working on him to give himself grace. But he doesn’t let adversity keep him from doing anything and that’s a piece of Warren that groomed on the monkey bars of every playground in Florida and I am glad he never lost it. (He never let us leave a park as a young kid until he made it all the way across without falling.)
And then there is Danielle. She literally is bouncing off walls minute by minute to get through the world of COVID. I’m not sure she even sleeps anymore. She is a bundle of potential energy constantly a moment away from spontaneous combustion… but usually one of joy and laughter. And she has fallen in love with space. She is a girl ready to run among the stars. And as the most social of our children, she keeps talking…. Constantly… but COVID didn’t set her back. She just kept talking. To anyone and everyone that will listen. And if there isn’t anyone volunteering… she will talk to the stars. That girl doesn’t even see hurdles… just objects to bounce off of…
We mucked up a lot in 2020.
There was a lot we couldn’t control in 2020.
There are lingering hurts and laments and much yet to wrangle towards the right.
But in the midst of all that… life finds a way. And we are grateful to have courtside seats to the way our kids lived that through all our adversity this year. And I’m grateful for the networks of co-workers, friends, and family – not just the 6 or 19 or 24 of us… but layers and layers of family beyond what we normally mean when we say “our family” came together this year to nurture each other and help life find a way to clear all the hurdles of what wasn’t the way it was supposed to be.
Our “Christmas Vacation” hope for the world is that we never lose the vision of what “should” be, but that we always find the joy in the midst of what “is”… and we keep working to bring those two visions into unity. Much love to you all from the Kuklas. Here is to 2021… and maybe a little less unprecedented.
Grace and Peace,
Andrew, Caroline, Warren, Elizabeth, Meredith, Danielle…and Leo and Storm (the dog and chinchilla)