Every year I wonder if I'll have the time, energy and inclination to send Christmas cards. And every year after I've decided there's not enough of all of the above, I start to feel that familiar twinge of guilt. It usually begins right after Thanksgiving and persists as I open card after card with adorable kids' photos and news from friends and family afar.
And so I decided again that there are simply too many people scattered across the country that deserve at least to know that they are in our thoughts as the year draws to a close.
Since Ryan and Patrick were very small, I've always done a photo card. The many aunts and uncles, cousins and friends enjoy seeing how they've grown. But as the boys got older, I was running out of original ideas. I took to getting a group photo on our summer vacation, which worked well because we were usually at the beach, the boys were happy and I could snag them for a few moments without requiring a change in outfits.
But we didn't vacation this year. In fact, the sad truth is that we never once made it to a beach this summer — surely a Hoke family first (and something not to be repeated). While I still had my neighbors digital camera after Korea, I took to taking a few photos of the boys, very random, very unplanned. And the one I chose for this year's card is now on my desktop and makes me smile whenever I sit at my computer. I sent it to Danny at work and he said it makes him smile as well.
The boys aren't dressed in any holiday finery. Honestly, my guys don't do holiday finery. They will grace their grandparents' presence on Christmas Day with a pair of wind pants or jeans, though I'll insist on a pair without holes. In fact, they are in sweatshirts or T-shirts, but it's their faces that make this photo. All three are smiling naturally (as opposed to the typical teeth-clenched "are we done yet?" grin). Ryan is looking every bit the pre-teen he is. I see an older, teenage version of Patrick in his maturing face and little Mikey...well, he's kneeling behind his brothers but has him arms around their shoulders and a big grin, the same dimple as his dad revealed in his cheek. Around his mouth are remnants of the chocolate cake he had for dessert that night. And visible on his chubby little fingers are the marker stains leftover from school.
I know plenty of moms who would die of embarrassment or freak if they saw the photo. Not me. That's Mikey — messy face and all. And that's my boys when they are relaxed and enjoying each other's company.
Anyone who knows them will probably smile when they open their card … just like Danny and I do when we look at the photo.