We thought our 2005 letter, “the year of the travel bug,” was lost forever, until we discovered this black & white photocopy in Matt’s father’s files.Holiday-Letter-2005
Holiday Letter 2020 (by Matt Churchill)
Holiday Letter 2019
2017 Holiday Letter (by Matt Churchill)
2016 Holiday Letter (by Luke, Thomas & Zac Churchill)
2015 Holiday Letter (by Matt Churchill)
2014 Holiday Letter (from Matt Churchill)
February 14, 2015
Dear friends and family,
Happy Valentines Day! 2014 was an eventful year in the Churchill household, with each kid hop-skipping off to new schools, and Suzanne leaping into a sabbatical, while I learned the old age shuffle. Yes, the “highlight” of my year was arthroscopic knee surgery.
Now I’m not one to complain, but you would think that when I’m going under the knife, Suzanne would be clutching her rosary beads and praying for my welfare. Instead, when I come out of the general anesthetic, I find that she’s been posting to Facebook about the lawn mower and polyp removal conversations she’s overheard in the waiting room and debating with her friends as to whether I’d be able to meet my weekend cooking obligations (not a chance!).
But I have to forgive Suzanne. She was probably distracted by her upcoming 2-week trip to Russia as part of a Davidson College-sponsored faculty study tour (read about the experience on the “Studio R” blog), or the subsequent weeklong digital studies course in Victoria, British Columbia, or the potential “trials” of a year long sabbatical, or preparing for our Halloween trip to New Orleans for my brother Ian’s marriage to Pamela Waggoner (though as you can see from this photo, we didn’t dress up much). I recently asked Luke whether he had any inkling as to future career possibilities, and his reply was something like, “Well, Mom’s job seems pretty good right now!” Heck yeah.
I have to admit that I also enjoyed a work sabbatical last summer. Every 5 years my law firm allows for a 3-week “vaccatical” that we used to take a family trip to Italy and Switzerland. We feasted with Suzanne’s sister’s family for a week in Tuscany, toured 1,000 or so churches in Rome and enjoyed the extraordinarily generous hospitality of Suzanne’s Swiss relatives. Robin, Pat and Florence Alder hosted us at their vacation place on Lake Lugano in Southern Switzerland, took us on a tour of the Wallis Valley (including an unforgettable sunrise cable car ride to the top of the Eggishorn mountain and a day-long hike along the Aletsch glacier), and suffered through our gallant, but generally failed, attempts at water skiing. It was a real treat. The Schollenbergers also hosted us in Kusnacht, treating us to delicious meals and a guided family history tour of the town (with ice cream).
Despite a significant amount of parental angst, Thomas and Luke appear to have both found ideal college situations, which makes it a lot easier for their parents to bear the long distance separation.
Thomas, 18, set his sights on Stanford early, and I thought his application was pretty strong, except for the “letter to your future roommate” essay. Thomas chose to tie this essay to the T.V. sitcom, “How I Met Your Mother” and the “Bro-Code” modeled therein (which I loosely interpret as a vow to lie to your parents to protect your brother). He also borrowed the main character’s trademark expression of describing any “legendary” experience as, “legen . . . wait for it . . . dary.” I was pretty dead set against this essay and told Thomas that I thought it was going to be “legen . . . wait for rejection . . . dary,” but he stuck to his guns. And of course, when the acceptance letter came, the admissions officer told him she thought his time at Stanford would be “legen . . . wait for it . . . dary.”
Luke, 18, chose Washington University in St. Louis, which has a stellar academic reputation, a beautiful campus, and one of the worst names since Beaver College (my and Suzanne’s study abroad alma mater). Now I can understand adding a geographic descriptor if you need to distinguish between UNC Chapel Hill and UNC Wilmington, but do we really need to highlight St. Louis here? Our friend, Kristi, thinks my reaction stems from an anti-Midwest bias, but I beg to differ. I really like Chicago! Just to get on Luke’s nerves, I’m trying to convince members of my family to add geographic locators to their schools as well. So Suzanne could say she sent to Middlebury College in Middlebury and teaches at Davidson College in Davidson.
Zac, 13, is in 8th grade at J.M. Alexander Middle School (in Huntersville), which feeds into the I.B. program at North Mecklenburg High School (in Huntersville), from which Luke and Thomas graduated in the spring. When queried about the adjustment he’s had to make due to his older brothers’ departures, Zac opined that, “it’s no different” and promptly returned to Insta-gramming all of the other 13-year-olds that now dominate our neighborhood. Zac’s grown about 6 inches in the past 3 weeks (and added a bit of teenage attitude), but he still maintains a happy-go-lucky vibe that we treasure.
This year was not without significant loss. Suzanne’s Mom, Valerie Wintsch, suffered through the end stages of Alzheimer’s disease and just died peacefully early this January. Suzanne has written blog entries about Valerie and Alzheimer’s that I recommend to you (click on the topic “Alzheimer’s” in the right sidebar). We’ll all miss Valerie’s sparkle, warm chuckle, and fierce love for and devotion to her family.
Moments like this remind us of how important you, our friends and family, are to us, and how lucky we are to have you in our lives. We hope to see many of you in 2015, and we now even have a few extra bedrooms if you’d like to visit us in North Carolina. We promise that your visit with us will be legen . . . wait for it . . . dary!
Lots of love,
Matt, Suzanne, Thomas, Luke and Zac
2013 Holiday Letter (Digital Edition), by Matt Churchill
PO Box 2143
Davidson, NC 28036
Dear friends and family,
‘Tis the season of college applications, and our children are nestled all snug at their laptops, while visions of essay prompts dance in our heads:
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you see the word “Future”?
Suzanne’s Answer: Tense.
But I reject that pessimistic attitude. When I see the word, “Future,” I think: Digital Age. And in that spirit, I offer this guide to the actual and virtual worlds we’ve explored in the past year.
If you haven’t joined the digital world yet, don’t worry. I’m just baby-steps ahead of you. I did manage to join Facebook on December 1, 2012 (thanks to my brother-in law, Scott) but forgot my password within a month and only managed to recover it a few days ago. So I must have missed out on a ton, right?! Let’s see . . . brother Andy is drinking too much Stag’s Leap ’97 at a restaurant in Amherst; brother Ian has changed his profile picture to a clown face; and brother Bruce is eating lunch at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston but skipping the art. Hmm – and they say teenagers should clean up their digital footprints!
Fortunately, Suzanne is on the cutting edge of the digital world, writing a blog on high-minded topics like the viral, pop song sensation, “What Does the Fox Say?” She’s also featured quite prominently (in a hot, polka-dot dress I might add) in Davidson College’s website news release on a digital studies grant.
But I learn the most useful digital tidbits from the young people in my life – and we’ve had a couple of new additions to our family this year (intriguing, no?). Kennesia Martin, who became part of our family when she was a student at Davidson, moved in with us this fall as she began her career as a middle school math teacher in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg public school system. Kennesia not only teaches her students algebra and geometry M-F, but also, on holiday occasions, leads them in line dances like the “Stanky Legg.”
One of the highlights of my 2013 was to injure my left knee during an early morning workout. I went to an orthopedic surgeon for a diagnosis of the dramatic swelling – Did I blow out my ACL or MCL or break my lateral tibia plateau like Kobe Bryant? No, the surgeon replied, you’ve just been born with a slightly misaligned kneecap. Yes, folks, it turns out that I was born with a stanky legg.
Our 14-year old Swiss cousin, Florence, who stayed with us for 3 weeks over the summer to improve her English language skills, has no such issue. A snowboarding whiz, she zipped around on a ripstik and danced along the ropes course at the Charlotte Whitewater Center. Florence was a joy to be around and, along with our 14-year old neighbor, Rachel, proved that uncontrollable giggling is a trait of adolescent girls worldwide. Suzanne has enjoyed the influx of estrogen into the household, watching classic chick flicks like “Safe Haven” while we were staying in a beach house near where the movie was filmed.
Luke and Thomas, 17, are seniors in high school and have the pleasure of spending their Christmas vacations answering college essay prompts like, “What would you hope to find at the other end of the rainbow?” Thomas’ response: “Breakfast.” While neither has created his own nonprofit nor solved any previously unanswerable mathematical proofs, they did recently collaborate to build a life-sized, gingerbread house, decorated with Christmas lights, fake snow, and math equations, for a school project—an artistic achievement topped only by their performances in the classic film short, “Can We Have Our Ball Back?”
Zac, 12, and in 7th grade, is eagerly anticipating his older brothers’ departure for college (he has great plans for converting their bedroom into a rec-room of his own). Always trying to keep up with his brothers’ high standards, he’s written his first screenplay, “Rescuing Ricardo” (running time: 120 seconds). Plot synopsis: mean-spirited Ricardo has a moral awakening when he goes into the twilight forest in pursuit of his neighbor, Bill, the dumpster-diver. Ricardo first encounters the great ninja Ishikushu, whom he vanquishes with his super laser gun, only to face four, highly trained army men with knives, guns, and black belts in karate. As the army men charge him, he calls for backup on his walkie-talkie, and a helicopter drops two AK-47s, which he uses to mow down his adversaries. Ricardo rescues Bill and apologizes for his past, rude behavior, pledging, “Now I will be nice to everyone because I do not want this to happen again.”
Now you may be having a similar reaction to this letter, but there are some things in life that are worth repeating, like childhood photographs and visits to Davidson, NC. As much as we love stalking your Facebook pages, we’d rather see you in person. We’ll have an extra room when Luke & Thomas (hopefully) matriculate in the fall, and the dance floor will always be open. In fact, if you are lucky, we might even teach you the Stanky Legg.
Happy New Year!
Matt, Suzanne, Thomas, Luke, and Zac