Christmas with Joshua & Aaron
Holiday Music, Christmas Cookies, and a Warm Fireplace
Another year has come and gone. Aaron and I hope that each of you had an amazing Christmas filled with a lot of laughter and joy; that you ended this year closer to your goals and dreams than you were when it began.
In our home, Christmas is one of our favorite times of the year because it represents everything that is good in the world; spending time with the people you love most, curling up inside by the fireplace watching happy movies and listening to cheerful songs, baking gingerbread cookies and roasting turkeys, the quietness that blankets crisp winter nights as snow makes everything look frosted. It’s big family dinners with three or four generations running around and telling stories or talking about current events. It’s memories of caroling in Victorian costumes for choir with Aaron during high school in Missouri and, later, late night choir rehearsal in the nearby chapel in New Jersey, where the conservatory in which we were enrolled performed its annual Christmas concert; being in kindergarten and my mom bringing large storage bins into the living room, pulling out the decorations and candles, putting up the tree; the scent of pine, making homemade peanut butter balls and white chocolate covered pretzels. It’s bustling stores; perfume counters and browsing through aisles of kitchenware and coats, power tools and books, picking out gifts as you reflect on the people with whom you want to share your good fortune, carefully selecting each item for the recipient. It’s spending Christmas morning with my siblings playing the newest Mario or Zelda game as we all excitedly try to figure out how to beat the level together. It’s waiting for re-runs of Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer when there was no Internet and only a handful of network television stations. It’s the family working at the letterman jacket awards company until two or three a.m., barely sleeping, trying to make the delivery deadline for customers, joking and laughing as the sound of chenille and embroidery machines clack at 550 to 750 times per minute (but never 800 because once you went that high on those machines of old, it was hard on the motor, leading to a loss of production once you accounted for broken thread shutdowns and other problems); of swinging by Dunkin’ Donuts on the way home to get a cup of coffee as it was one of the only things open back in those days. It’s driving around as a little kid with my parents looking at Christmas lights on the houses.
Whether we were rich or poor, young or an adult, it has always been a magical constant; a time when everything is better and you get to reflect on the fact you were gifted with another year. Aaron and I are unequivocally,non-apologetically Christmas people. You might randomly hear one of us playing Christmas songs on the piano or come across us reading Christmas stories in an oversized leather chair (this year, I was super-excited to find a 760 page Christmas literary anthology for only $7.98 at a bookstore!). We can’t help it. We quite literally catch ourselves singing without realizing we are doing it (we’re those Midwesterners who listen to Andy Williams Christmas songs without any sense of irony and don’t care if it strikes you as hokey.) Christmas is laughter and late night games of Monopoly or Clue. It’s talking about your plans for the upcoming year surrounded by people who love you and want the best for you. It’s sipping eggnog out of golden-rimmed glasses and looking at twinkling lights on the tree. It’s trying to fall asleep but being so excited you can’t wait to get up before dawn and wake up the rest of the house on Christmas morning.
No matter how busy we are, or how little time we have with our other responsibilities, there will always be time for Christmas in the Kennon-Green household; for family and friends. This year, we spent most of December getting only 3 or 4 hours of sleep with all of the start-up activities at the firm. That wasn’t going to stop us. We decided to change our usual Coca-Cola Christmas theme to a rustic log-cabin inspired theme (or, at least, our version of it), building the entire thing around two Christmas ornaments we found at a store, which looked like they had been painted on sawed logs. This meant building a frosted pine forest, putting up faux fur stockings, changing out the artwork and decorative pieces for wildlife, and switching the candles over to an evergreen scent. It was so much fun, watching it all come together over time. We’re even thinking about getting matching rocking chairs like the ones you see on Appalachian porches so we can sit outside during snowstorms, bundled under blankets with our hot cocoa, watching the forest and creek behind the house get covered. The only thing stopping us on that is the fact we won’t be in Missouri down the road and we aren’t sure how much good rocking chairs will do us in a different environment, which we’ll share in the coming months after we’ve solidified the specifics of our plan, which is currently underway. (We’re also fairly certain that, several years from now, we’re going to have everything redesigned around a minimalist furniture and layout theme so we’re trying to avoid adding too many things that we’ll just have to turn around move or donate. That’s something we do every 5-6 years – re-theming everything- because it can be a lot of fun to change the environment.)
We spent Christmas Eve at my parents’ house, eating slow-roasted brisket and heavenly potatoes (a type of potato dish that my mom has made for as long as I can remember, which involves shredding the potatoes as if they were going to be hash browns, adding sour cream, cheese, and some other ingredients, and slowly melting it until it becomes this rich mixture of salty and creamy goodness that should only be responsibly indulged a few times a year), Christmas morning privately at our house making sausage and scrambled eggs after we opened our gifts to each other (then curling up under a large blanket and falling asleep on the couch), and Christmas afternoon with my in-laws enjoying roasted ham, cornbread casserole, chili, pumpkin pie, and cookies my father-in-law bakes each year. (For our contribution, we brought Aaron’s dark chocolate and espresso crinkle cookies to my parents’ and mint Oreo fluff to his parents’.)
In our own household, Aaron and I have been working on our list of Christmas traditions. One that we added this year involves hand-making the tags for the gifts, which we will get preserved and turned into ornaments or re-used in future years. It was a lot of fun as we spent one evening a few nights before Christmas sitting on the floor by the Christmas tree, drawing together for hours as we placed each of the packages for the other to wonder about in the time that remained before opening. When we have kids in the future, this is something we can’t wait to do with them, letting them draw their own tags to gift to their siblings and us, grandparents and cousins. Then, when they are grown and have families of their own, we can give them the ones they created in childhood.
On the topic of gifts, while gifts are not the main point of, nor the primary source of joy regarding, the season, I will say that I loved that side of it this year, too, mostly because practically everything was so thoughtful from everyone. Aside from getting each other necessities that reflect our sense of style and preferences – we loaded up on things like coats, sweaters, shoes, jeans, socks, cologne – Aaron gifted me the limited edition Elton John vinyl LP anthology that includes several of his albums, including one that had never been released on vinyl record, so I can play them on a turntable like we did back in our college dorm. He also gave me a pair of sterling silver and enamel cufflinks that look like old-fashioned wrapped candy. I realize most people probably won’t get why these make me so happy but I can’t fully explain it either. They’re miniature. And they look like candy. If anyone finds them nonsensical they and their two-size-too-small Grinch heart can remain baffled because it won’t take away my joy! I wore them today and found myself breaking into a smile whenever I’d randomly look at them. On top of this, he picked out a colorful shoelace set from Allen Edmonds to go with the new Oxfords he got me. I can swap the shoe laces in my dress shoes to match whatever I want that day. Today, I’m wearing some sort of dark lilac (is that even a thing? Dark lilac? It’s in that general vicinity no matter what you’d call it) ones but they have several colors including a peppermint-striped candy cane shoe lace, which I am looking forward to using.
Okay, I can’t stand it. Here they are! They make me so happy!!!
On a related note, for the nieces and nephews this year, we continued our usual practice of buying them some toys or other things they might enjoy now, while putting the main gift, cash, into the custodial accounts we established for them so we can pick out another stock for their collection of investments. Sometimes, we’ll try to tie the gifts together – e.g., the year we gave them shares of Hershey we bought them their favorite Hershey candies in large bulk boxes – but not always. Most of them may not fully understand it now, but they’ll be grateful 50, 60, 70+ years from now when they look over their portfolio and can say, “My Uncles Josh and Aaron gifted me those pharmaceutical shares” or “That candy company has been paying a dividend to me since before I could walk.”
Next year, Aaron wants to do a destination Christmas so nobody gets gifts for each other but, instead, we all travel somewhere as a family for the experience. Unfortunately, it looks like it won’t be possible because my brother, Caleb, already knows his rough schedule for medical school and there’s no way he can make it work. We’re thinking, instead, maybe we pick some other time in the next couple of years and all have a Christmas-out-of-season as a way to get around it. I like that idea because, with a little bit of planning, we could fit it in without a problem. Both Aaron and I would load a few dozen annual reports on our respective iPad Pros to read during downtime and we’d be set.
For now, though, the Christmas season is coming to a close. In the next week or two, we’ll bring down most of the holiday-specific decorations, leaving up only the winter-related stuff. Considering it very well may be the last Christmas we ever spend in Missouri, it was one to remember fondly. I know I said it in the beginning but both Aaron and I hope that you and your family had an equally-as-wonderful holiday filled with a lot of laughter and joy. Here’s to a prosperous 2017! I think we’re all in for some interesting times so it should be, if nothing else, eventful.