pictures of 2022
I like to think of the letters that people sometimes include with their holiday cards as a form of proto-blogging. It was a form of mass publishing that predates social media by decades, one of the few methods people had even before email to keep others abreast of what was happening with the family. I know there are mixed feelings about such letters. They often present an overly rosy view, or are written too floridly, or just poorly. People don’t seem to send them as often as they once did. All that said, I still really love getting them every year. I guess this post is my homage to that fading art form.1
And so we close the book on another year tonight, a year more eventful for this household than any we’ve seen since the Before Times. The major events of this year were especially unevenly distributed—May and June were off the charts with major milestones being ticked off every few days, but the summer and fall were especially quiet. I suppose that makes sense since our household population declined by 25% in August. Let’s look back on this bursty, weird, eventful, exciting year, a year of significant change.
There was a lot of volleyball this year: club, high school, and even college. There was a memorable club tournament at McCormick Place in January, and one of the oddities of that particular locale was that there were huge, elevated windows facing east which brought blinding sun in the mornings. I wonder how many sets were won by teams staring straight into it. This tournament was good for Danny’s team, with a second-place finish to a gritty club from New Orleans, of all places. It was during this tournament that we realized this team might be pretty damn good. A lot of that had do with Leo, the coach, seen dispensing tactical and strategic expertise here.
And a month later we were proven right, this team was pretty damn good. At the Dennis Lafata tournament in St. Louis2, the boys won first place in their division. I don’t want to brag a lot, at least not explicitly—the number of pictures tells the story—but the kid pictured here led his team in kills and hit percentage by a wide margin, as well as being a terrific passer and defender, and was on the court for pretty much every point. It was a bit late in the recruiting process, but we heard from more than a few interested college coaches after this tournament.
On Mother’s Day, we saw Leah dance in a funky loft space in Ravenswood with the Moonwater Dance Project’s youth company. Beautiful, passionate artistry on display from all the companies and groups that performed that day. Leah also did a recital with them over the summer, but that was a no-cameras affair. I hope Leah’s schedule allows her to dance with them again, they do fantastic work.
Prom! If you’d have asked me to lay odds on him going as recently as two months before, they’d have been pretty long. Danny’s a bit on the reserved side. But a mutual friend made it clear that Brigid would like to go with him, so he found the nerve, and there they were, looking very spiffy indeed. We’ve really enjoyed getting to know her since then. They’re out celebrating the new year tonight with friends, presumably responsibly. Call me if you have to, kiddo.
Even though Danny had committed to play at St. Xavier a couple of weeks before this, the high school’s athletic department had a “signing ceremony” for all of the seniors who were going on to play sports in college next year. It was really cool to see all the kids who are playing and where they’re going, especially some of the ones I coached in baseball when they were littles. I’m not taking any credit, of course. That goes to the real coaches, like Coach Cousin pictured here.
And then graduation happened! We all cleaned up nice for this, doncha think?
The high school volleyball season extends into the early summer after classes are over. Through the luck of geography, OPRF is in the sectional that has all of the city schools, which means that we have a pretty good chance of getting to State without having to go through the behemoths in our own conference. Still, though, the games have to be played and won, and they were. The guys took care of business against St. Patrick in the sectional final, and the seniors took a moment to cheese it up here.
All things must pass, though. Even with a favorable draw at State against a Libertyville team that was very beatable, it didn’t go according to plan. We won the first set, but then lost momentum and never found it again. This one stung badly. I’ll miss this group of kids, and the parents, too. One thing we’ve learned over the years is that the quality of the kids is strongly correlated to the quality of the parents. Not surprising, really, but we have a decade+ of empirical data to back this up.
The last big event of any school year is the spring recital for Légere Dance Centre, Leah’s main dance school. The girls there are something like family, with all that implies on both sides of the ledger. It’s always an emotional experience, especially as we say goodbye to the seniors. It’s also unfailingly beautiful. Dance just kind of blows my mind. I feel like I could fake my way through pretty much any other performing art, but not dance. They’re magicians.
Wait, we thought club volleyball ended! Turns out one of the other teams in Danny’s club (“The Pineapples”, and how much do we love those jerseys?) was short a couple of players for the AAU Nationals in Orlando, and his own team didn’t go. So just a couple of days before the tournament, they called him to play up. We had to move a whole bunch of stuff around, and endure a week in central Florida in July, but the payoff was terrific: the team ended up taking bronze in their division. We had so much fun. Danny played with a lot of the guys on that team his junior year, and they took him in like he’d been there the whole season. God, it was hot, though.
My band, Tiny Bit of Giant’s Blood, was thrilled to get an opening slot for The Tubes at Summerfest in Milwaukee. Tony and I last played there with The Good about 25 years ago, in a triumphant opening set for Collective Soul, and we couldn’t wait to get back there and do it again. Unfortunately, unlike that legendary show, this time we had a really early start on a Thursday, and a freak cold front blew in off the lake, smothering the venue in dense fog. So the crowd was a bit…underwhelming. Still, it’s always great to play grown-up stages like this, and Fee and the other Tubes couldn’t have been nicer. I talked gear backstage with Roger for a long time. And, sadly, this would be one of the last shows for the bass player, Rick Anderson.
The highlight of our summer, easily, was the trip to Puerto Vallarta. We surfed, we ate, we drank, we ziplined, we golfed, we lounged poolside (a lot). And best of all, we went on a snorkeling trip where the guys who run the boat have a semi-trained sea lion named Kola who knows how to come up on the deck of the boat and mug for pictures in return for little bits of fish. He smelled just like you think he would. And his fur was amazing.
We saw a little slice of history this day when OPRF played football against arch-rival Fenwick for the first time in over 30 years. Back in the day, the fans got so rowdy and out of control that the schools quit playing. This year, they reinstituted the series with a couple of crowd mitigation strategies: the game was played at a neutral site some distance away at 11:00am on a Saturday. No chance for the usual drunken shenanigans, at least not in a widespread way. Best, OPRF delivered a galactic ass-kicking to the Friars. No doubt the support of the Drill Team was instrumental.
At The Good’s annual stop at the Exquisite Corpse Ball at Beat Kitchen3, we found ourselves in the headlining slot for the first time. The pressure was on for us to do it bigger, better, and badder than ever before. There was sturm und drang as we prepared for it this year, as always. Or maybe more than usual. Deciding who to be, and what to play, is harder than you might think. Really, there were some moments during the run-up where I wasn’t entirely sure this was going to happen. But even when brothers fight, it’s understood that they are brothers first, and when it really matters, the squabbles fade and the blood bond remains. What a night we had as AC/DC. And then the world’s latest burrito stop.
The holiday season officially starts when Leah performs in Ballet Légere’s Nutcracker. Though of course she may not always be feeling the holiday spirit at that moment, since preparations for this show start annually in August. That’s a whole lot of times to hear the March of the Wooden Soldiers, and I can see why she described it as “triggering” when I flipped to the Nutcracker suite in our holiday songbook on Christmas and started plinking out the various motifs on my aunt’s piano. What a journey it’s been since she started out as a reindeer all those years ago.
All in, after a five- or six-year run that brought a whole lot of sadness to our family (and community, and nation, and world), 2022 was finally decent for us, on balance. Yes, of course there were low moments of loss and sadness, but in hindsight it seems my cautious optimism at the beginning of this year was mostly merited. I mean, look at those beautiful faces up there (not counting my own). My cup overflows.
I’m not sure what to feel about 2023 yet. I can see some obvious early warning signs of storms ahead, and surely there are unknown unknowns lurking. Maybe the good news there is that at least I am starting this coming campaign with a fully charged battery, so I’ve got a chance to absorb whatever slings and arrows await.
May 2023 deliver what you seek, or at the very least what you need. May you find peace, and may you bring peace.
We stopped sending Christmas cards a few years ago, mostly because we just couldn’t get it together in time most years. So if you used to get them from us, and you’re wondering if we took you off the list, don’t. We took everyone off the list. ↩︎
St. Louis is actually a pretty cool town. Chicago people who talk crap about it are boring. ↩︎
This is the only picture on the page I didn’t take. If you took this, or you know who did, let me know and I will provide credit. ↩︎