Christmas 2018

I’m never sure how to sum up our year in this anachronistic letter, but I think our son Rhine has given me a visual guide with his hair styles. I still can’t claim to really understand all the nuances of being a transgender 16 year-old boy, but from my perspective, it seems to entail being a relatively lazy teenager who currently is “at serious risk of failing” Drivers Education, dressing in an endless variety of camouflage/rainbow garments, and getting his hair cut into increasingly bizarre geometric shapes. Not sure how to describe it. Trapezoid? Rhombus? Definitely some sort of parallelogram. It doesn’t really matter, now that I think about it, because by the time I finish this paragraph, it will have changed. And that, I think, is the symbolism for our family- ever changing and generally odd. Other accomplishments of Rhine’s include actually failing the second semester of World History last year, so he made an unscheduled return to La Grange from the island during the summer to make it up. (Not to brag, but he rocked it the second time around with a stellar C-.) He’s also started writing original music. Here’s a song he recorded earlier this fall. It’s called “Galactic Heart Attack” and Rhine explains that it’s “literally about nothing.” I guess we had literally nothing to do, so we made this video. Enjoy.

Liam is 18 and rapidly approaching high school graduation. You wouldn’t necessarily know this, however, from casual observation. Most of his time is consumed with plowing through a zillion levels of whatever new video game he just bought with his job bussing tables at the nearest pizzeria. On Madeline Island, it’s Grandpa Tony’s, and here at home it’s Antonino’s, which is about ½ a block south of our house. I’ve tried (and let’s face it, I’ll continue) to encourage him to diversify his employment resume, but, for now, I guess he’s found his niche. He’s currently in the basement with some friends watching Deadpool II and eating pizza. To be honest, there was a time when that was my greatest dream for him, so I guess I should count my blessings. Plans for next year include attending the local community college and working toward a degree in computer science. He’s a beautiful boy who is generally very kind to his mom and dad, so we must have done something right.

Billie is 21 and taking full advantage of finally being of legal drinking age during her senior year at the University of Illinois. (Okay, I don’t know if that’s exactly true. But probably a little bit.) She invited Liam down to visit for a weekend and gave him his first official drink at a college party. We were kind of banking on her also getting him a little action with the ladies, but apparently that wasn’t in the cards. (Don’t worry, Liam, spring semester is coming!) Billie spent the second semester of last year studying at the University of Bologna. I use the term “studying” loosely here because my credit card bill was chock-a-block with charges from like every country in Europe. (Plus Malta. Where’s Malta?) She’s getting her degree in advertising and has a job offer from Yoga International, where she’s been employed the past two summers. They seem quite smitten with her, and Billie seems to appreciate being appreciated. However, she’s exploring other options as well. Tune in next year to see how this all washes out. The grand drama of her summer was getting hit by another car just before she was scheduled to return to college. She managed to navigate the infuriating world of insurance companies and used car salesmen, and ended up driving home in an even older Subaru Outback™ than she left in. It took Maureen at least 4 hours to back her own Subaru Outback™ into it. So, it looks like Rhine might be a chip off the ol’ block.

Owen is 27 and continues the path of a happy, healthy adult. He’s a licensed forklift operator at some sort of industrial place, which is paying the bills, and there is talk of him completing his college degree. I’m very proud of his maturity and his methodical pursuit of a meaningful and fulfilling life for himself. Over the past year, he’s gone out of his way on a regular basis to spend time with us, which is incredibly flattering for, let’s be honest, parents of any age. On the social front, he seems to be hot for basically any of Maureen’s friends. I’m not one to say he has mommy issues, because I don’t know exactly what that means, but seriously, something weird’s going on there.

Maureen’s year, as far as I can tell, has been consumed with stealing my iPhone™ chargers and hair clips. I really can’t even speculate as to what happens to the phone chargers- I’m assuming it’s a charity drive or something (Charge Up The Holidays?), but I feel like I’m getting my money’s worth from Amazon Prime™ purely from my free weekly delivery of three new chargers. The missing hair clips is kind of weird too because I don’t often see her wearing them. I have had it implied, most directly by a Driver’s Ed teacher at my school, that wearing a hair clip makes me look gay. (He didn’t state it directly, but I was getting his message loud and clear. Something like, “Nice Mom Clip, Schaub.”) The thing is, I don’t think Maureen would have any problem with me looking gay. Sometimes it seems like she forgets that I’m not actually a woman. Another of her favorite pastimes is inviting me to events where I’m the only male. (The good news is that I look super cute in a Pussy Hat.) At any rate, she’s not home right now- (She’s at Trader Joe’s getting Daddy another box of wine. Someone drank the other one. No need to point fingers.)- so I’ll take advantage by not trying to fully enumerate her year’s accomplishments. In a nutshell, she wrote a couple of books, created and performed a one-woman show, taught some classes, and generally let her light shine in a thousand millions ways that only she can. Her latest book cover caused a bit of a scandal because she’s posing in lingerie on her back on the floor with her legs spread in the air. (VERY empowering.) If you’d like to form your own personal opinion, here’s a link. At any rate, for full details of her many good deeds, refer to Facebook or any of her 50 or so websites.

For my part, I’ve spent most of the year wondering why my phone is dead and my hair is in my eyes. (You’d think there’d be an easy solution, but you’d be wrong.) Maureen and I were going to go visit Billie in Italy, but as luck would have it, I had just inherited a cabin in Wisconsin that was on the verge of falling off a cliff. So, instead, Maureen visited Billie on the continent, and I headed north to try to piece our jigsaw puzzle back together. She sent me pictures of the two of them with our friends Philippe and Ivana in front of the Trevi Fountain, and I sent her pictures of me living in Shrek’s swamp. (Isn’t technology amazing? It’s like we weren’t even apart. Except I’m assuming she had access to a functioning toilet.) My renovation adventure would have been less intimidating if, you know, I knew what I was doing. But I bought some lumber from a guy who sells it out of his barn, learned a little about tile work from the local artisan who, as it turns out, is stoned as his natural state of being (happiest human I know, by the way), and by the end of the summer we were living like Gatsby with running water AND electricity. Honestly, my goal was to end each day with as many fingers as I started with, so at least I accomplished that. There’s still some work to finish next year, but I hope my mom would be proud of what I’ve done. She wasn’t a fan of changing anything up there, but if she saw the outcome, she might be willing to make an exception. So, if your travels take you near Madeline Island, our door’s always open.

We send our love during this, and every other, season. May the new year bring you peace, prosperity, and a visit to the Schaub household.

Merry Christmas,

Will, Maureen, Owen, Billie, Liam, Rhine, and our two dumb cats

P.S. Rhine is pleased to announce that he crushed the written portion of the Driver’s Ed final and finished with a C. Here’s to having another extremely average driver on the roads! Merry Christmas.