2008 Holiday Letter (by Matt Churchill)

December 2008

Dear Friends and Family,

I’m back!  Suzanne, with her Davidson College faculty gig, managed a full-year vacation (I mean sabbatical) in 2007 – 2008, but somehow all I finagled was a year free of holiday letter writing.  But, unfortunately for you, all good things must come to an end.

One of the benefits of aging is that you start to see all of your parenting efforts begin to bear fruit. Take Zac (age 7 and a second grader at Davidson Elementary), for example. On May 15, 2008, Suzanne received the following letter from our very responsible neighbor, Emma (age 11), who walks Zac and Emma’s sister, Tilly, home from school each day:

Dear Ms. Suzanne.  Today on the walk home Zac said a very bad word.  He said the word that starts with the 6th letter of the alphabet.  I’m sorry to have to inform you of this.

A…B…C…D…E…(uh oh).  So Suzanne pulls Zac and Luke (age 12), who are playing basketball in our driveway, into the house for an interrogation:

“Zac, I received a very disappointing letter from Emma today.  What did you say on the way home from school?”

“Ummm,” Zac replies sheepishly, “What the [sixth-letter-of-the-alphabet-word]?”

“Why in the world would you say that?”

“Well, Tilly was throwing a fit and being really mean to us and she wouldn’t stop.”

Ignoring this admittedly rational answer, Suzanne continues the interrogation: “And where did you learn that awful word?”  (Now I must admit to you, my faithful reader, that when I first heard this story, I began to feel a bit uncomfortable at this point. Fortunately, Luke came to my aid):

“From me,” Luke admits.

“And when have you been using such language?”

“When Thomas hit me in the face with a basketball really hard on purpose.”

Somewhat flummoxed, Suzanne sends Zac and Luke off to write an apology to Emma and a list of alternative phrases to use in moments of justifiable distress, which results in the following missive from Zac:

Dear Emma.  I am very sorry I said that.  I didn’t mean to.  I should of said, “What the milk.”  Love, Zac.

And a new family expression was born.

But we don’t just stop at fiery language in the Churchill household.  We go for the real fireworks as well.  This Spring Thomas (age 12) and a couple of his friends had the bright idea to light a few leaves on fire in woods owned by the DAVIDSON FIRE CHIEF.   And when the flames got a bit out of control, they had an even more ingenious idea to smother the fire with dry mulch (resulting in a visit from the DAVIDSON FIRE DEPARTMENT and the longest grounding of Thomas’ short life).  Yes, it’s been a year to make any parent proud.

While I highlight their foibles to make sure they have something to talk about someday in therapy, we actually feel very lucky to have three happy, loving, and generally responsible children.  Firestarter, I mean Thomas, has natural leadership qualities that he exercises on his soccer team and on the middle school student council.  He has a sly sense of humor, a love of animals (particularly his cat, Fergus), and strong empathy for others (hidden at times by long hair and a teenage attitude). Thomas also keeps me up-to-date on hip hop and other music trends, allowing me to repeat my mother’s famous line, “What is this noise that we’re listening to!”

Luke is usually ensconced in a pile of books, but he also finds time to be a key defender on his soccer team, a member of our town’s youth advisory council, and an architect on his school’s “Future Cities” team, which is competing to build a model of an environmentally efficient city. He’s almost as tall as Suzanne, but despite his teenage size, he’s not too cool to give great hugs. And Zac, despite his sailor’s vocabulary, is still a cheerful, fun-loving little boy who plays sports of all kinds, loves Lego and Hotwheels, and hates the UNC Tarheel basketball team with a passion almost as strong as his Dad’s. All three boys are now computer-savvy kids who have “chat” sessions with their friends that consist of exchanges like: “Yo, are you on-line?”  “Yeah, dude, s’up?”  “You rock.”  “That is so beast!”

Suzanne and I feel very fortunate to have challenging (albeit occasionally too stressful) jobs and a healthy family, and our thoughts and hearts go out to those of you who are struggling with the down economy or health issues.  We enjoyed a great California spring break trip with my brother Bruce and his partner Scott this year, visiting friends in Southern California and various “lands”:  Disneyland, Legoland, and Weird Rental House Land (the last of which I don’t necessarily recommend).  We took our annual family sojourn to New England to visit our parents and siblings, and Suzanne and I attended her 20th Middlebury reunion and my 15th Stanford Law School reunion (yes, we are getting old). Suzanne also went North in November to meet our new baby niece, Isabelle Lisette Wintsch, the daughter of her brother Jonathan and his wife Suzanne.

It seems a bit predictable to end our letter with the traditional, “Season’s Greetings.”  But, what the milk! We hope that your holidays are filled with joy and that your New Year is beast.

Lots of love,

Matt, Suzanne, Thomas, Luke and Zac

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