This month is spent examining the past year and what we want to do or look forward to in the coming year. I can examine each day, week, month and know that they happened, but I don’t remember being present for most of the year. I would like to go through this month and be present for my fabulous kids, not having them see me in the same pajamas, unbrushed teeth, no shower for days because the bed or couch kept pulling me down so I could grieve. There were days and months I would not be able to name because the brain fog was so bad.
Chanukah begins at sundown on Dec. 7, and since this isn’t really a holiday but a minor festival, the kids and I will be celebrating with small gifts for each other, latkes and jelly donuts. I look at the meaning of the nights ahead and the part I can relate best to is that there was only a little bit of oil left but it kept the candles lit for eight more nights. I can take this, and it will fit in with my story. I had only a little bit this year but kept going despite the odds not being in my favor. Chanukah is a joyful festival celebrating the realization that we cannot be broken.
Olivia made the bowling team again this year. She and Harlan shared the love of bowling. We would bowl as a family, and Harlan would give Olivia pointers. I watch her now and am so proud of her perseverance. Olivia has the focus to be successful. Harlan has been such a big part of who Olivia is becoming. Sometimes I can see him in her face. They were two peas in a pod.
Alex took part in the production of student written, directed and acted short pieces, and the topic was social media. They have really come into their own with acting in two of the pieces. This kid has tried not to have people focus on them, until now. I watched the production and couldn’t believe how well they were done. The theater program at Albany High School is no joke. I can see a love of acting being lifelong for them. Olivia went with me to see the show. She became invested in each piece. The anxiety felt during the piece about a school shooter was very genuine.
Ben has had a fantastic beginning to the school year. He is taking the necessary classes to graduate but has done so with classes that make him happy. I love that he is taking an interest in being a mechanic! That skill will always be necessary. Harlan showed Ben the skills he had, my brother showed Ben some too and the rest is instinct. Ben is also taking physics and talks about it at home with enthusiasm. I am proud to say that there is very little mansplaining.
Barnes will celebrate his second birthday in March! Adopting the little puppy that “should be 60-70 pounds” was one of the best choices I have ever made. Barnes has been a force to be reckoned with since the beginning. I’ve lost some socks and the occasional piece of broccoli to this ball of energy and love. The little doggy is now a 90-pound protector who also loves to snuggle. He has a strong personality and will show his happiness with extreme enthusiasm. He has been challenging and has a will of his own, but Barnes is loved.
Next year is so close. I want to survive this year before I worry too much about 2024. My trio is counting down until the magic birthday in January. The fact that Alex, Ben, and Olivia will be 16 is just too much for me to think about yet. Not having my mom and Harlan here to celebrate is going to be hard. Being a mom to 16-year-olds is going to be a little stressful … just a little. This past year was hard on them. The level of grace they gave one another is inspiring. They make me want to be a better person.
Putting 2023 to rest will be like removing a weight on my shoulders. I can look forward to the quiet nights with fresh snow, the kids turning 16 and all asking about driving, turning 50 and being able to look at a picture of Harlan and smile instead of feeling as if my heart has shattered again.
Jennifer Steuer is an Albany mom with 15-year-old triplets Olivia, Benjamin and Alex, and their 50-pound lap dog, Barnes. Follow her on Instagram: jennifersteuer.