Kukla Christmas Letter 2021

Dear Friends and Family,

(Note: Caroline, a good court jester to me (that will make sense later), says you won’t read this whole letter – so if that is you, and you know who you are, skip to the bold “start here” comment about halfway down.)

I hope this Christmas letter finds you well – even if it comes under the shadow of another COVID variant. I can recall March of 2020 thinking, “we may not be in the Sanctuary by Easter…” without realizing we would miss two YEARS of Easter Sundays in the Sanctuary. I can recall the optimism of June 2021 when vaccines were being dispersed and it felt like the fall would bring “normal routines” when in fact it brought spiking Delta waves of new cases. I think of those memories and say, “how cute were we – all full of optimism, hope, and naivete?”

Yes… yes… this IS a Christmas letter… I haven’t forgotten. You came here expecting a bit of witty commentary on another year past and the accomplishments of our children with the survival stories of their parents. It was much what it would be if it was years past… and I will tell those stories, but first I’d like to share the preachy part… vocational hazard, ya know? COVID has become one more individualizing force in our lives (one among MANY). How do I isolate, withdraw, take care of myself is the question we have asked… maybe the better version where we do so to protect our neighbor. Some of that is necessary – but like all things, we are challenged in moderation. And pandemics can make us myopic – we only see this most pressing of all challenges. We can forget that all the old problems are still there. People still die of other things… and systems-level justice issues must still be addressed. By all means, be COVID safe, but avoid the temptation to stop helping others because it endangers ourselves.

And while I was thinking this, it struck me that if I record the story of our year past as what we accomplished – I miss that those accomplishments are largely empty and vain if we have not also done anything to empower our neighbor’s accomplishments and promote the well-being of our larger community. The impulse to self-preservation without regard for community preservation is a lonely end game – and ultimately it is far too often counterproductive: we can’t survive alone for long. It’s not simply theological, it’s evolutionary: it is in our drive towards each other and cooperative work towards shared values and goals that promotes the well-being not simply of the whole but of each individual within the system.

START HERE 🙂

Which is what makes the infectious joy with which Danielle lives every day such a gift. She is a hugger and cuddler (my personal struggle… some space please?) and she is drawn to people with a sense of rejoicing in their presence.. you can’t help but have a better day when she is around. It’s a gift I take no credit for but am proud of all the same. From the soccer field to the classroom she sheds joy on everyone. And she brings that joy no matter how “good” she is at whatever she is doing (she is now trying volleyball and that should be… interesting! But she will make it joyful!) Shared joy: you cannot eat it, and it won’t keep you dry or warm on a rainy night. But it will get you going in the morning when nothing else will. We all need cheerleaders!

Meredith snarls, glares, and rebukes like nobody’s business. But she has flourished into a natural leader that also mentors, teaches, and defends. Little did I know an old story of her early childhood would so define her: she used to get bitten a lot in preschool and I asked the teachers if she was provoking kids. They said, “oh no! We have a bitter in the classroom and no one will play with him.. except Meredith. She just doesn’t mind getting bitten and still plays with him… thus all the reports that come home.” And this year we have seen that same trait flourish in so many other ways… she is too stubborn to give up on anyone (except her little sister… but no one is perfect!).

Elizabeth is one of those withdrawing types – COVID has expanded E’s desire for their own space, privacy, and avoidance of anything like the limelight. And yet Elizabeth has gladly taken up working the food pantry at church every Monday from 3:30 to 7:30. E walks the stairs up and down hauling boxes made for families of 3… 5… 7. And it was one thing Elizabeth never questions or never fights doing. Sure the parents in us would love to see E desire to be at youth group, cross country practice, or taking part in all the family activities (not just the ones we make ‘em do)… but E is E and charting their own course: but never without regard for others – and I’ll take it!

Warren had another up and down year. Our kid most disillusioned with what COVID caused and trying his best to make it through AP classes, soccer, band, philharmonic, and all the things (not to mention video games, video games, and more video games)… he is a quintessential jack of all trades but that has included helping to run A/V in worship, and being willing to take up any new tasks or job he doesn’t know how to do already if anyone – literally anyone – asks him too (he will moan about… he is a teenager after all, but he usually also does it). He is a lot like oil in a machine – you don’t necessarily notice he is there until he isn’t… because when he isn’t nothing quite works right. (Also… he is the LOUDEST video game player the world has ever… heard.)

Caroline is the glue to it all. I don’t need to tell you that there are few people as compassionate, empathetic, and caring as she is – and who backs that up with tangible work: running the car pools, cooking the food, crunching the numbers, organizing the chaos. And while she might groan to me – she does it all with the type of laughter that tells you where Danielle gets her joy from.

The name Kukla means doll… or puppet. In Greek, it’s used as a term of endearment for a young child (you doll), but as you move up Eastern Europe in Czech it means cowl or hood… or one who makes or wears cowls or hoods… and in Russian, it takes on more the puppet or puppet maker meaning (thus Kukla, Fran, and Ollie for those of you that know that reference). We are Polish Kuklas… and I like to think it means court jester. (A doll wearing a hood who entertains… a mishmash of it all.). Why? Not because we mock or have nothing useful to add… but because I like to think the court jester properly makes things go more smoothly… to prick the egos of the powerful and lighten the nasty moods, to bring joy and point out elephants in the room, to serve the master, not of entertainment, but of cooperative peace… maybe even harmony – discordant notes brought together into a semblance of beauty… It’s a goal anyway – even if not quite attainable. And one I think is worthy. Because working together isn’t easy, it is messy, and it will cause no small amount of headaches and frustrations… but ultimately? I think it’s the only way we are getting through this thing called life.

So here is to a year of the court jester in its many manifestations! I hope you are finding people in your life who bring you joy and comfort (and prick the balloon of self-importance when necessary… we all need it – I know I do). And I hope you find yourself being those for others as well. Nurturing cooperative actions towards a more comfortable and joyous tomorrow for all our neighbors. And along the way: may you have a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and wonder-filled New Year.

We love you all, the Boise Kuklas

About Andrew Kukla

I am the proud father of four wonderful children, loving husband to Caroline, brother to three mostly wonderful sisters, and son of two parents that gifted me with a foundation of love and freedom. I also am a Presbyterian pastor and former philosophy major with a love of too many words (written with many grammatical errors and parenthetic thoughts), Soren Kierkegaard, and reflections on living a life of discipleship that is open to all the challenges, ups and downs, brokenness and grace, of a chaotic and wonderful life founded upon the love of God for all of creation.

Posted on December 24, 2021, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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