Christmas in Seattle

Dear Malin Reese,

I remember when I was about 5(?)-years-old, I stared out the window of my bedroom in desperate search of Rudolph’s red nose. I had just seen the clay-mation version of Rudolph and he seemed like such a nice reindeer. I wanted to give him a big hug and let him know that his story resonated with a dopey kid in Chandler, Arizona. I stayed up for hours, my eyes searching from one corner of the neighborhood to the next. Just when I was about to give up, a red light lit up our sleepy neighborhood. I smashed my face against the window, ready to see Rudolph slice through the air on the way to my doorstep. Turns out it was just a neighbor’s car with the brake lights illuminated, before they slowly backed out of their driveway. In that moment, I was crushed. Where was my faraway animal friend? I’ll tell you where he was Malin; he was flying in a fairyland of lies and deceit. Santa’s not real and either are his reindeer or his industrious little toy-making elves(although sadly, a version of those elves exist in factories in China.That’s a different letter though.) I wanted you to have this in writing now, so that I can show you one day, even though I lied to you repeatedly until you found out from one of your classmates that Santa and Rudolph don’t exist, I told you the truth in a letter I knew you wouldn’t read until later in your life. Phew…conscience clear.

The same Christmas I was stood up by Rudolph, I was beginning to realize that my Mom and Dad both really loved Christmas. I knew it was a big deal to them. I don’t have distinct memories of our household being an unhappy one but I do remember there was a special energy around the house in December. Moods seemed to be lighter and smiles seemed to be more frequent. Seeing my parents smile and be happy mattered to me. I don’t remember a single gift I received during that time but I do remember that feeling.

The next few Christmases are a little out of focus for me. They were fragmented celebrations in large part because of family tumult. I remember feeling confused about the celebration part, not knowing if I should feel excited or somber or somewhere in between. What sticks out most about this time is that, even though it was a rough time for our family, everyone, family and friends alike, were trying their damnedest to still make Christmas special for me and my sisters.

At about ten-years-old, Christmas started to normalize again. A routine, which I came to love, was set in place. We spent Christmas Eve with my Dad and we celebrated in a traditional Swedish way. It was always a night of culinary excess and modest yet plentiful gift giving. Nothing else mattered in those few hours and that same spirit carried over to the following day when we headed to my Mom’s for our Christmas Day celebration. This late-December constant has meant the world to me for the last twenty years…

Which leads me to an explanation for what’s happening a few days from now. We’re not going to be celebrating Christmas the same way this year. Your Mom and I have decided, for reasons both practical and selfish, that our celebrations with family in Arizona will be confined to every other year. The practical side;it’s too damn expensive and inconvenient to travel during the holidays. The selfish side; we want to forge our own family traditions up in Seattle.

Here’s what we can do this Christmas to honor the family in Arizona. We will call, Skype and FaceTime the pants off of them. We will eat, drink and laugh in excess. We will be thankful for any material gifts we receive. And finally, we will do all of this, TOGETHER, hand in hand, as a unique family forging our own traditions.

I love you and Merry Christmas,



  1. We are also spending our first Christmas in Seattle. I wish it was a little colder and more snow covered 🙂 Still, We just drove around the city and it’s so beautiful and amazing. We will miss family, kids, friends…. But I look forward as you do, new traditions and Skype!

  2. And you know what: So you should! I learned a couple of years ago that it is important to build on your own tradition. That does not mean that you can’t incorporate some of the old ones. You will love it and those traditions will be the ones your kids will love!

  3. I think you are right. There is nothing that matters more to kids than having their parents with them and making memories together. It is much more important than gifts. Perhaps your family will start making the trip to Seattle on those years where you stay put. That could be fun too.

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