Caricature of Julie drawn at a Christmas party in 1989
1994 Showalter Family Christmas Letter – Julie Showalter
Let 1994 go down in history as the year we acknowledged it — we’re a family of obsessives.
Sam reads, studies, talks about the Titanic. Every conversation eventually comes round to the topic. “Mom, I think we should start to pray for dead people,” he says, and I foolishly assume he’s speaking of his grandfathers. Not so “Let’s start with Captain Smith and the Communications Officer.” Another day, “Morn, are goose bumps real?” I explain goose bumps, their physiology, the etymology. Sam thinks about what he’s learned and says, “I bet you really get them in the North Atlantic.”
Allan has discovered computers. He’s used them for years, but this year he decided to learn about what he’s using. He subscribes to at least ten computer magazines, and lusts after each new upgrade. The current debate: Will his third computer (to accessorize, his word processing desktop and his presentation capable notebook) be a new 100 mhz, or will he settle for the 90, a product that has been on the market for at least six months and is therefore tested but also a tad obsolete? Programming has been a hobby and sometimes profession of mine during the last fifteen or so years. I was not prepared to be left in the dust.
On good days, I write. On all other days, I obsess about writing. Ask me how I am and I’ll tell you how much I’ve written that day. My time seems to split about 25 75 between “damn, I’m good,” and “I am a untalented slug, neglecting her family and wasting her life.” Since I’m writing this letter on a “damn, I’m good” day, I will say that writing has given me a new life with incredible challenges, rewards, and friends. My wonderful husband and children support me in this (mostly the wonderful husband bribes the children so they won’t bother me). They have put up with my going to Johnson, Vermont for two weeks in February (Am I dedicated? Yes, I’m dedicated. Writing conferences are available in Maui, but I chose a workshop in Johnson, VT. The scenes were as you would expect ¬readings in an old church where the speaker’s every breath produced frost and the audience sat huddled in parkas). I went to the Iowa Summer Writers’ Workshop for a week in July. And I am off December I 15 to Ragdale, an artists’ retreat in Lake Forest, IL. Allan and the boys smile bravely when I leave and hug me when I return. I have experienced some success this year. Three of my stories have been accepted for publication, and the residency at Ragdale is a real honor.
Max has outgrown his first obsession and seems downright nostalgic. At eighteen months Max started lining up silverware and saying, “Choo, choo. ” On our last trip to Hawaii, he and I rode the sugar cane train seventeen times. Two nannies threatened to claim Workman’s comp for psychiatric damage caused by watching Thomas the Tank Engine ten times a day. Then it was over. This summer, in the toy store, Max picked out a miniature jet and , said, “I like planes now. Remember Mom, I used to like trains?” Of course, I misted over that my baby was growing up. Max does have other interests now. He collects string.
Other than our obsessions (and the thing about obsessions is that there’s not much other), we’re doing fine.
Allan is in his second year as Medical Director of Proviso Family Services. He continues as U.R., Q.A. guru at Hartgrove Hospital (if you don’t know what that means, trust me, it’s important). He is a one man movement speaking about the myths surrounding attention deficit hyperactive disorder. And he keeps an active private practice.
Sam is in third grade where he continues to charm. Even the Lutheran school where we send him because of his need for structure and discipline has capitulated to a degree. At the latest parent teacher conference, his teacher told me, “Maybe the best thing for Sam isn’t sitting in a classroom doing math problems. He is a free spirit, you know.” In addition to coping with ADHD, Sam is dealing with nightly injections of growth hormone. However, as he told me when I was upset about giving him a shot, “It’s only till I’m eighteen, Mom.” His courage and resilience astound us.
Max is thriving in kindergarten. His teacher says, “I tell all the children, ‘why can’t you be like Max?’ and he just beams.” We see problems ahead. I know all five year olds are cute and sweet, but ours does delight us. When asked what he learned his first day of school, he said, “You don’t have to sing to do ABC’s.” He is my Christmas card assistant this year. As I type this, he is affixing stamps and stuffing cards.
I write and enjoy my family, and !hat pretty much takes care of what I do. I’ve needed no chemotherapy for over two years. I feel great, I’m happy, I’m grateful.
May you all be as blessed as we have been this year.