14 December 2014
Merry Christmas everyone!
To set the scene: I’m sitting on the couch in front of the Christmas tree. Snow is falling lightly outside. Music from The Nutcracker is softly playing in the background and I have hot chocolate in hand as I stare at my laptop. A good thirty minutes have passed in this fashion, as I’ve tried to come up with a good way to describe our year. Frankly I’m not sure what to say about it. That it has been an emotional one is a given. My tear ducts have worked overtime this year. There have been many hard things. But not all necessarily bad. But what is a Christmas letter meant to be, really? Should I stick to a somewhat surface piece of holiday cheer? Or admit that along with the good, there has also been the not so good this year? What is too personal to share in a Christmas letter? What is appropriate or not? I certainly don’t want to be a downer. But I also don’t want to come across fake. How to balance all of this? That’s what I’m wondering as I sip my hot chocolate and look out the window at the falling snow. It may be a mixed bag, friends. This letter I mean. But let’s get started shall we?
Probably our biggest piece of family news this year is one that the majority of you already know about. Rebekah submitted mission papers in late January and ten or so days later a big, white envelope arrived in our mailbox. In it was a calling to serve as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the England London Mission for eighteen months. Rebekah was beyond thrilled. And as parents Bryan and I were particularly delighted. Because England meant a foreign country experience, without some of the dangers, health or safety related, that parents worry about. And no new language to learn...although her letters are peppered with British versions of words such as post: mail, flat: apartment, biscuits: cookies, bits and bobs: odds and ends, and trousers: pants. (She learned that last one the hard way, apparently. In the UK if you refer to your pants, it actually means your underwear….that probably was a bit of an embarrassing moment for our American girl.) Rebekah left for the Provo MTC on May 20th, a few days after her 19th birthday and only two and a half weeks after moving home from Logan after finishing up her finals at Utah State University. It was a mad dash to get her properly outfitted, packed and ready to go, as well as throw together a big farewell party. And saying goodbye at the MTC was probably one of the hardest things I have ever done. I tell you what, I didn’t used to be such an emotional person, but it doesn’t take much these days to get the waterworks flowing. But she is thriving in England, truly having the time of her life. And so though I miss her so much it sometimes physically hurts, it certainly helps to know that she is so happy. She is in Canterbury right now, on the coast right near those famed White Cliffs of Dover. She’s had companions from Switzerland, Uganda, Great Britain, and right now, a fellow Yank from California. She has adored every single one of them. The work is going well, she’s seen a few baptisms and she is happily spending Christmas in a very picturesque type place as far as traditional European Christmases go. We’re looking forward to talking to her on Christmas day.
But see, while all of this was going on? Bryan was going through a transition of his own. One also to do with belief and faith and religion, but in a different way. It’s hard when you start to feel that what you’ve always believed looks like it can’t hold up under closer scrutiny. So while we celebrated many big traditional Mormon events ie: Rebekah’s first visit to the temple and leaving on her mission, Julianne getting her Patriarchal blessing and being set apart to be on the Seminary Council at the high school, Brandon being ordained to be a teacher in the Aaronic Priesthood and Lilian turning 8 and getting baptized….these were all things that were tinged with a bit of sadness too. Because though Bryan continues to be supportive, clearly these things don’t mean as much to him anymore which is kind of hard. Sad for me, but also sad for him as he wrestles with what to think about it all, and maybe a little frustration as he wonders at our belief and faith in things that he sees so differently now. I told him right from the start that I was sure that a good little Mormon girl could have a rocking relationship with a non-believer boy as long as there was respect on both sides. And so we’ve kind of taken that to heart as we’ve worked on finding our new normal as it relates to our marriage, family and church activity. I think maybe I was a little naive….this transition has been a lot rougher than I imagined it would be. We’ve had a lot of very hard conversations, a lot of tears, a lot of confusion and frustration and dismay as we both worked through various insecurities. But also a lot of raw honesty and serious progress when it comes to communication. And so though we are worlds apart in some of our beliefs, we have I think become even closer as a couple. I have no doubt that the sailing will not always be smooth, but we are committed and determined to cling to each other no matter what.
And because apparently dealing with all of that wasn’t enough…2015 seemed to be the year where everything fell apart and we spent a lot of time and money repairing or replacing things in our home. Within just a few months we dealt with the fridge, garage door opener, TV, microwave, dishwasher, garbage disposal and the central vac all breaking down. Over the 4th of July during the hottest week of the summer the air conditioning went out, and because it was a holiday weekend we baked for a good six days before we could get it repaired. In April our basement flooded when the secondary water came on for the season and broke a pipe. Again. This time the flooding was worse than last year and required new walls and flooring in both Julianne’s and Rebekah’s bedrooms. We breathed a big sigh of relief when the reconstruction finished up two days before Rebekah’s big mission farewell. I was seriously thinking I would have to hang a sign leading downstairs saying, “Please pardon our dust…renovations in progress.” Because not only were the two bedrooms under construction, but the family room also housed all of the furniture, clothing and stuff from said bedrooms. It was kind of a disaster area.
The rest of our year was filled with other odds and ends (or bits and bobs as Rebekah calls them…)
* In June Julianne invited me to tag along with her Davis High theatre friends to New York City. (I have mentioned how part of my soul lives in NYC, yes?) We saw five Broadway shows while we were there and wished we could’ve seen more...they were just all so incredible. The whole week was filled with serious NYC awesomeness but singing Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” at Yankee stadium with a bunch of baseball fans after a big Yankee game, ordering dumplings from a crazy asian lady in China Town, walking across the famous Brooklyn Bridge, and seeing a rat in the subway were definitely top moments. Truth be told, I have no idea why seeing a rat in the subway delighted me so much…maybe because it was just one of those very real NYC moments that make you feel all authentic or something.
Julianne is a senior this year, which kind of fills me with dread as I remember back to the emotional havoc that Rebekah’s graduation played on me a couple of years ago. Theatre of course, continues to be a big part of her life...a few highlights: she got to play the part of “Millie” in Thoroughly Modern Mille with CentreStage Theatre. She also auditioned for and was cast in Centerpoint Legacy Theatre’s Guys and Dolls this past summer. And then made a very believable “Whore #1” in Davis High’s Les Miserables a few weeks ago. But she’s decided that theatre isn’t everything and has been enjoying her elementary education internship in a local 3rd grade class, and is fascinated with her AP art history and AP psychology classes. (She psychoanalyzes us all frequently.) She also has a boyfriend…but shhh, don’t tell her that I told you.
* Because 2015 wouldn’t be complete without gymnastics meets I should mention that earlier this year Brandon traveled to Las Vegas (and spent an extra day or two of fun playing with Mom and a couple of sisters on The Strip). And took some quick jaunts to California, Texas and Colorado with Dad. Dad doesn’t care so much about sightseeing like Mom does. Not sure which Brandon prefers…is he really more than content to spend the weekend doing solely gymnastics related things and totally ignore the beach that is just a few miles away? Because I tell you what, I was somewhat appalled that while in Long Beach, CA they didn’t even step one bare toe into the surf and sand.
Brandon is in the 9th grade which means he’s officially earning grades towards graduation himself. He still eats, sleeps and breathes gymnastics. He’s at the gym 24+ hours a week. Can I tell you how excited I will be when he gets a drivers license and I don’t have to get him to and from Bountiful daily? As much as I hate teaching teenagers to drive, I am actually looking forward to Brandon getting his learners permit in three more months.
* Thankfully Lilian is still happily learning multiplication and cursive in the 3rd grade...she’s still got awhile. Like Julianne, she joined CentreStage Theatre and performs with Singers Company. More like Rebekah, she loves playing on her soccer team. (Like both her sisters, she quit piano lessons. Hmph.) And in her free time she enjoys playing Minecraft and legos with Brandon. Apparently she is a hybrid of all her siblings. But Lilian and I spent a lot of our evenings this year cuddled up on the couch with Harry Potter. We read the entire series out loud over a period of five months. This is the third time I’ve read these books out loud to my children and I was a little sad to finish the final book with my last. Rebekah tells me not to worry...that she’s planning on me reading them to her children some day. In the meantime, Lilian and I are now working our way through the Percy Jackson saga.
* With no travel planned for the summer after we returned from our NYC trip and being in a place emotionally where I wanted/needed to just stay home and be, when my doctor suggested that my body was at the point where a hysterectomy was necessary, I figured it was perfect timing. Recovery was long, but somehow being forced to be still and take care of myself was as much a good thing mentally as it was physically. Bryan and the kids went above and beyond in taking care of house and home while I was down. And I have discovered there are a lot of benefits to being uterus-less.
* Mostly because of my long association with Lex de Azevedo, I was invited to be an extra in a few scenes of the movie “Saturday’s Warrior” that is due out next spring. You probably won’t even be able to see me unless you know where to look, but it sure was fun channeling my inner 70’s hippie and hanging out on set with all the cast. I’m highly interested to see how it all turns out.
* Bryan and I had the opportunity to dress up fancy and chaperone Davis High’s Prom at the state Capitol building last spring…which was a fun little slice of deja vu considering our own high school Prom was our first date back in 1990.
* Bryan applied for and was chosen and trained to be a range officer up at the local outdoor Kaysville Gun Range. He enjoys working there, but especially enjoys the benefits of being able to shoot any time he wants. We’ve all enjoyed target shooting up there with Bryan but Brandon goes somewhat frequently to enjoy father/son time.
* This summer after 22 years of marriage Bryan and I got new wedding rings...these ones of a more permanent variety. We got infinity symbols tattooed onto our ring fingers. (And because frequently this is the next question that gets asked...yes, it did hurt. But not as bad as I was expecting.) It felt a bit like a renewals of our vows. A way to remind ourselves that whatever hurdles we face in the coming years, we continue to choose each other and our marriage and we are in it for the long haul.
So there you go. This was a year of learning and growth. Much of it unexpected and unintentional. But growth often times comes that way, doesn’t it? As the result of unexpected life experiences? Not all learning come from books and research, and isn’t that nice? Even if sometimes it comes through things that you’d rather had not happened…but find yourself thankful for what you learned and discovered about yourself along the way? We’ve learned more about communication skills. We’ve learned that time together as a family is essential. We’ve learned about unconditional love. We’ve learned that tears are easily replenished...you don’t ever really run out of them. We’ve learned what is really important to us...and that sometime those things are not always what we thought. We’ve done a lot of reflection on faith and logic and fundamental questions about life, why we are here and where we come from. It’s been a roller coaster of a year with emotions all over the place. Hard at times, yes. But ultimately good.
We hope you’ve had a good year as well and wish you a Merry Christmas!
Love from the Crofts,Bryan, Sarah, Sister Rebekah Croft (19), Julianne (17), Brandon (14) and Lilian (8)