Acorns and Fails

Fail. Last year, in an attempt to build on a tradition, I asked each of my family members to write down a hope they had for the year to come. I handed out slips of paper, and they handed me back folded notes, which – unread – I tucked into a special ornament shaped like an acorn. I suggested that the hope they wrote down would be like the acorn, small and buried for a long while, but could sprout into something amazing in time.

I thought I was so clever.

This is what they wrote:

“I hope the bus driver retires.”

“Don’t pre-order video games from BioWare.”

“Taco. Pizza. Minecraft Realms.”

“I hope my brake repair doesn’t cost a lot.”

“More concerts near me so I don’t have to miss work.”

When I opened the acorn, I waffled between miffed and disappointed: this wasn’t the poignant memory to begin the holiday that I’d been aiming for. Where’s the genuine reflection and pleasure in having reached closer to a goal? Where’s the comfort found in a (new) tradition? What a bust.

Does it matter that it failed? No. Maybe the tradition isn’t the words of wisdom from younger selves, but that Mom keeps trying to create these little moments of magic. When the kids read the slips of paper, they cracked up – mostly at each other’s. “Really? Pizza?”

I look around my house and see the wins … the bowl of nuts in shells that has become linked to the holidays, storybooks for the season everyone who has lived here heard read to them a decade ago or more – and still get read in quiet pockets of time. It’s not just me defining those moments, either – each of them have contributed to the season in their own ways, laying down what might be a family tradition for their kids, nieces or nephews, and sharing them with their friends and significant others.

I’ll probably try again – ‘hey guys, what do you want to tell yourself a year from now?' Or maybe, the acorn can go back to just being a pretty ornament.

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