It’s that time of the year for retrospection.
After posting my Top Ten Songs of 2022, Top Ten Books of 2022, Top Ten Hikes of 2022, and Top Ten Ministry Moments of 2022, it’s time to conclude these rankings with looking back on the Top Ten Family Moments of 2022. Like the ministry moments I recalled yesterday, family life doesn’t fit neatly into a summary like this. Even so, there’s really something to be said for the way that a retrospective exercise like this helps to heighten my awareness and appreciation of life as it goes by. So I’m giving it a try, even if the results might be imperfect.
Furthermore, recognizing that “the universal is in the specific,” I’m going to try to really zero in on the best moments. Not just the best seasons, or days, or even hours (though occasionally a moment can last an hour). I want to distill the experience as much as possible. I’m especially mindful of the fact that our family dynamics are changing these days. Our kids are transitioning from adolescence to young adulthood. And as such, they’re more independent. Consequently, we get less time with all five of us together. But when we do get time together — either all together or in smaller contingents — it’s special.
But enough explanation and set-up. Without further ado, here are my Top Ten Family Moments of 2022, in ranked order:
- Hammocking in the World’s Largest Living Organism (July)
- Christmas Eve Projectiles (December)
- The Last Soccer Goal of the Summer in Estes Park (July)
- Thanksgiving Eve (November)
- Visiting the Spiral Jetty (July)
- Friday Feast with Friends and Family (October)
- Overnight Getaway to Indian Hot Springs (June)
- Olivia’s Graduation Party (May)
- Rockies Game with Jay and Brandi (June)
- Cross Country Meet at Stow (October)
And again, for any who might appreciate more context, my explanations for each selection are included with the listing (reverse rank-order), below:
#10 – Cross Country Meet at Stow (October)
I started noticing some themes, as I winnowed down my list of my Top Ten Family Moments. One: this was a busy year for our family, where we often seemed to run in several different directions at the same time. Two: it felt special when we could manage to get a few different elements of our relational network together at the same time. And three: the best moments often happened when we could find a moment of rest, amidst all the other activity. The finish line of the Stow Invitational Cross Country Meet in early October is a perfect example. Cor ran an exceptionally strong race. His brother Elliot and my sister Anna were there to celebrate his performance. Other friends from the Cross Country community were there, as well. And the sunshine coming through the leaves provided a great moment on a great Saturday in a great weekend.
#9 – Rockies Game with Jay and Brandi (June)
My brother and sister-in-law are on a quest to watch a game in every Major League Baseball ballpark. And since we happened to be in Colorado this summer, they decided to book travel for a Rockies game and invite us to join them for the fun. Looking back, I marvel at the way we were able to thread the proverbial needle to make this happen — between Marci and I coming down with COVID the preceding week, a funeral for Marci’s grandmother the following week, Elliot’s work schedule, and such. But we made it happen, and things actually felt pretty fun and easy, at least while we were there at Coors Field.
#8 – Olivia’s Graduation Party (May)
Life was crazy at the end of May. I was out in Colorado to help with the launch of the Collegiate Church Network’s Leadership Training program. Elliot was in Israel on a special educational experience. Marci was doing the “single parent” thing with a full slate of end-of-the-school-year activities. But we all managed to converge for Olivia’s Graduation Weekend. And with some special help from our friends Lindsay and Eva, we managed to pull off a pretty amazing Graduation Party that Saturday. We didn’t have to make any crazy adaptations for COVID. We had guests from a broad cross-section of friends and family. And it just felt great to celebrate our Olivia! The last hour of the party was probably my favorite, as we could finally relax a little, out on the front lawn of our home.
#7 – Birthday Getaway to Indian Hot Springs (June)
To celebrate Marci’s birthday in June, the two of us took a little getaway from our summer base in Estes Park, to Idaho Springs and Denver. We had a nice dinner and enjoyed a fun comedy show in the city. But I think the best part of that trip was our time at a 19th Century Bathhouse / Resort called Indian Hot Springs. It just felt really restful and relational. Marci and I are coming up on a quarter-century of marriage (which also included a lovely getaway to Charleston, South Carolina), and I feel exceptionally grateful for the experiences we get to have together.
#6 – Friday Feast with Friends and Family (October)
We started a new thing this fall, recognizing that two-thirds of the next generation was out of our house, living increasingly-independent lives as college students. Marci adapted this idea from a friend, and then I dubbed it our Friday Feast with Friends and Family: or FFFF, for short. We plan a big meal every Friday evening, and we encourage our kids to invite their friends. Thus, we capitalize on (1) the drive for socialization among peers, common among adolescents and young adults, and (2) the hunger among college students for a home-cooked meal. It’s been a lot of fun. It’s hard to pinpoint one specific moment from one specific FFFF, but the above photo from October 28th seems as good a moment as any!
#5 – Visiting the Spiral Jetty (July)
I didn’t know about Robert Smithson or his land art until January, when my brother and I had a fun long-distance connection about his work. That sparked something that stuck with me when we started planning our family vacation in Utah and Nevada. Circumstances aligned for us to visit Smithson’s Spiral Jetty in July, and that whole day stands out as a particularly surreal, but special, experience I got to have with Marci and Cor. Walking along the shore of the Great Salt Lake was bizarre, but beautiful. And even though we had a lot of amazing experiences on that vacation, it’s this moment by the Spiral Jetty that stands out in my memory.
#4 – Thanksgiving Eve (November)
Generational dynamics are shifting. Elliot is now closer to his college graduation than he is to his high school graduation. Olivia finished high school in the Spring and then moved into student housing on the campus of Kent State University in the Fall. So, our “nest” is getting emptier. But COVID and cross-town college enrollment have made this transition fuzzier than it was for Marci and me, growing up. Anyway: the circumstances aligned this year that it really did feel like the “kids coming home from college” for Thanksgiving. And the best moment of this, I think, was a sort of “Thanksgiving Eve Feast” on the Wednesday night of that week. We prepared food together. We took a little walk together at the Kent Bog, looking for wild cranberries (perhaps my favorite moment). And then we ate our big meal together. It was great.
#3 – The Last Soccer Goal of the Summer in Estes Park (July)
Estes Park is a special place for our family, as we’ve returned there many summers through the years. This summer was different because Olivia stayed back in Ohio, and Elliot stayed in student housing (as a staff worker for the YMCA of the Rockies and as a participant in the Leadership Training program). Even with the different dynamics, we had a lot of memorable experiences. But perhaps none more memorable than the last “Soccer Sunday” before Marci, Cor, and I left. We had plans to get ice cream downtown with friends, so I gave Elliot and Cor a ten-minute warning… and then a three-minute warning. And in the very last minute, Elliot fed a perfect pass to his brother — and Cor punched it through the goal for a walk-off win celebrated with friends and family.
#2 – Christmas Eve Projectiles (December)
I’m finally starting to understand why the holidays feel so special — and so challenging — for so many people. It’s so rare to get family together because our lives are increasingly divergent. And then when we do get together, the divergence creates dissonance. But I believe that gathering is worthwhile. A part of me wanted to just label “the whole holiday season” as a top Family Moment of 2022. But if I had to boil it down to one moment, I’d say it was the night of Christmas Eve, in our house on Bryce Road. My Dad was unusually sharp throughout our family celebrations that day, but it was especially fun to see him wad up wrapping paper that had been discarded from presents and thrown at other members of the family. Just like he might have done ten years ago — or thirty years ago.
#1 – Hammocking in the World’s Largest Living Organism (July)
This was just an epic day of family travel! We started the day in Las Vegas. We were rolling through the canyons of northwest Arizona by dawn. By lunch, we had already finished a drive through Zion National Park and a hike through Bryce Canyon in Utah. And before the day was finished, we outran a flash flood warning through Glenwood Canyon, in Colorado, to enjoy some ice cream with our old friends and former-neighbors, the Stumpfs. But in the middle of the afternoon — the moment that I’m going to peg as the Top Family Moment of the year — we had a rest stop at Pando: a grove of Aspen trees that’s been identified as the world’s largest living organism. Honestly, it really wasn’t that much different than hammocking elsewhere, but it was a special thing we did on a special day of family travel.