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Jen's World: Ghosts of Christmas letters past

In some facets of this world, I am unorganized.

For instance, I often lose my keys, regularly misplace my to-do list, and I'm particularly terrible at keeping track of online passwords. I am, in fact, locked out of Paypal right now because I entered something like 10 incorrect passwords in a row this morning. You'd think I'd write new passwords down in a notebook or something. But no. I just keep creating new ones when I forget the old ones, inexplicably deciding that I'll remember them this time.

There is one thing, however, that I'm fastidious about: our family Christmas letters.

Each year, I write a new letter to send with our Christmas cards. You know the ones — the holiday-cheer-sending, annual-recap-reading letter that arrives with the holiday cards. I love reading them, and I love sending them. Each year when I pen our latest installment, I file it away in my "Christmas" folder. I'm even uncharacteristically organized with the file names. There they all are, for the perusing: ChristmasLetter07. ChristmasLetter09. ChristmasLetter13.

When it comes time to sit down and write our new letter in late November (OK, fine, mid-December), I'll often open and read the previous year's letter for inspiration — and to remember what we last shared. You don't want to be repetitive with these things, you know. The Christmas letter is an art form.


This year, however, when I opened the Christmas folder, I realized that the very first file was labeled ChristmasLetter04. It was 10 years old. And for the first time I realized that here, in this little blue folder, was a Koski time capsule of sorts, offering a brief walk through memory lane.

In my head, 2004 doesn't seem that long ago. It's the year of the Athens Summer Olympics, the start of Facebook, and Janet Jackson's infamous SuperBowl "wardrobe malfunction." None of which feel 10 years old. And if you would've asked me last week what has changed for me personally since 2004, I wouldn't have thought there was so very much. I'm living in the same house. I know most of the same people. I'm still wearing the same boots every winter.

But when I read ChristmasLetter04, the truth of what 10 years looks like for our family was striking. I'm not going to lie: Reading that letter made me long to have just one of those days back — to travel time and relive the moments that I hadn't yet realized were fleeting.

"Christian is 5 years old," I wrote. "I guess the most important thing you should know about him is that he's 'a superhero at night when everyone's asleep.' During the day, however, he likes to play – and 'battle' – with his little brother, go to preschool, and make up his own recipes. He's looking forward to kindergarten next year, and is excited to ride the bus."

About our second born, I wrote: "Bergen is 2 years old. He cracks himself up by closing his eyes tight, then asking, 'Who turned off the lights?' He likes to draw, play with cars and trains, and do anything his big brother does. … When he's feeling sweet, he cups our faces in his hands…."

Fast forward 10 years and our Christmas letter has an entirely different tone.

"Christian is 15 years old," I wrote last week. "He's a freshman at Century High School, and is on the cross-country and tennis teams. He has taken driver's ed, and is spending some time behind the wheel with us. He's looking forward to driving without us, but will have to delay his license a little bit, as he'll be gone on a mission trip over his 16th birthday."

I continued: "Bergen is 12 years old and in seventh grade at Kellogg Middle School. He plays soccer and loves to downhill ski. He's on the dodge ball team at school, which is about as wild as it sounds. He's into listening to and playing music (on his trumpet), playing video games, and hanging out with his brother."


Seeing the two letters side by side reminds me how very fast time passes — and how important it is to live in the moment. At the same time, I can't help but look ahead and wonder what our Christmas Letters might look like in another 10 years.

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