In your letter

One slap happy evening the year after my dad died, my mom and I were having a glass of wine with leftover Thanksgiving turkey (okay, fine, we drank the entire bottle) and we started spinning twisted versions of what our Christmas letter might look like that year. Not that either of us have ever actually INCLUDED a letter in our Christmas cards, but the idea of popping an honest to goodness account of what had been the most radically bizarre and horrible year EVER was tempting to both of us. What prompted this ridiculousness? Only the most unbelievably consistent piece of information and entertainment ever invented to remind Earthling human types that we matter to each other– the annual “Smith” family Christmas letter!

I want to be clear that when my mom and I were creating inappropriate, offensive, bitter, hilarious and fermented grape influenced Christmas letters, we weren’t doing this because we begrudge the ol’ Smithies happiness. Those Smiths are good peeps and year after year they made it fascinating to hear about how Grandmas got the shingles or how she was recovering nicely from hemorrhoid surgery (those suckers were the size of plums! The doctor said he had never SEEN tags that big on anyone’s ass in his entire career!). One year Junior ended up with 6,000 ticks in his left ass cheek during Boy Scout camp (luckily the scout leader was a dentist and handy with the tweezers – LOL). Good stuff.  My favorite letters over the years were the ones that included the entire itinerary for the family vacation and the colorful details describing the massive quantities and unbelievable colors of the bodily fluids erupting when each and every Smith had food poisoning at the Alamo. I’m not mocking here. This IS the good stuff!

One of my favorite things about the holiday season was always that damn Smith family Christmas letter. I’ve never prayed so hard in my life than I did the year I found out that Betty Smith’s breast cancer had spread to her brain yet she lived long enough to meet her first grandson and see that he was born with a shock of curly black hair just like his father AND she was able to tell this everyone and anyone who would listen a minimum of 100 times – just as a proud grandmother should! I always have and will continue to consider these letters gifts.  

Now that I’m all grown up and receiving Christmas cards and letters from the people I have been lucky enough to know and love over the years, I have my own Smith family whose card and letter I cannot WAIT to receive. Sometimes I worry that they won’t keep up the tradition and it bothers me – A LOT. For such a short time, the Smiths were part of our lives yet year after year my heart skips a beat when I see the return address on the envelope carrying that juicy document.  Last year Susie got her braces off, grew boobies and went to the homecoming dance. I remember when her bunchy little diapered ass would go charging through my house looking to give a “pechial tweet,” translation – special treat, to our epileptic dog. Seeing her thrive over the years and grow into a healthy and confident young woman is a precious gift – it’s HOPE.

I’d be pissed as all get out if I didn’t get a blow by blow account of the Smith family every year, yet somehow my flaky ass managed to shove my annual crappy Christmas cards all addressed and ready to mail INTO A DRAWER and didn’t find them until February. Whoops. It gets worse. I’m a writer who has never written a Christmas letter. Analyze, discuss, whatever….I know it doesn’t make sense. I’ve discussed this over a glass of wine with a friend recently (okay, fine, we drank the entire bottle) and I have decided that I’m going to do what I want, need and expect from others at this time of year. I am going to put in the time and effort to create a letter that lets people know how much I love hearing from them because I care about my friend’s grandpa who has gout and I hope he’s cutting back on the salt. I want to know if little Jimmy was potty trained this year and how many puppies Maggie the dog popped out. Photos please!

I realize that I am in the minority. Most people mock the Christmas letter and roll their eyes at what they perceive to be an overshare full of unnecessary details, braggery and insincere blathering. Maybe it’s jealousy that gets the venom flowing when they receive a picture of a family in matching designer shirts, or on a sandy beach grinning like fools, but it’s my opinion that it is the fool who mocks. The idea that communicating only once a year might be disingenuous and artificial is one shared by many a mocker of holiday cheer but if you consider your busy life and tell me that you had the time to write, call or check in on Grandpa Gout. You meant to, right, but your kid has soccer and work was a bitch and then your Aunt Sally died and……..whatever.

I’m just saying that I’m sending a card and maybe a letter if Aunt Sally doesn’t die or the dog has puppies or the kids get the croup or I end up working a mega-fuck-ton of overtime or………whatever.  It might take me a glass of two (okay, fine, it will take a bottle or two) of wine to get this task accomplished but it’s going to happen.  I’ve got a lot to say and one of the things I am going to say is that I am grateful for each and every overshare, detail and photograph. I’m just happy to matter to people. I matter enough to be a part of their lives and they matter to me!  This is the good stuff.

P.S. Scotti and Kari – I’ll be waiting!



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  • I have also never written a Christmas letter although I have gotten better about sending the cards. The nosey bitch in me however digs though my mom's ancient felt holiday card holder every year to see what everyone else has to say. My sister and I were the worst about waiting for an old friend of ours whose wife sent their totally inflated christmas card every year. They took 12 vacations, ate the fricken lobster with their 2 talented and gifted children who were being recruited by Harvard in 5th & 7th grade. Priceless each year how we stalked the box waiting for that letter and then cackled as we read. The fuckers got divorced 2 years ago and christmas hasn't been the same since! Dear God if you ever do a letter, let me know...I want to read it!

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    After seeing what some people put on facebook about their daily lives, I bet their Christmas letters are even crazier!!

  • I have never written a Christmas letter, but this is inspiring me to do one this year! I will have to include my Christmas card from three years ago (before the last child was born) in with the letter, though. I can't throw away 50 pictures of my family (sans one) with the Wiggles, but I can't justify keeping them either.
    IF I go ahead with this inspiration, it will require wine as well. Drunken letters are even better, right? And I plan on sending you one, Nikki!

  • Damn, make me want to get back to typing! I KNOW you've missed my Holiday Opus for the past 3 years... ;) XOXO

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    I am going to print out this post (with your name and photo), copy it, and mail it out with my cards as MY Christmas letter. Thanks!

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    I'm so glad to hear the OTHER side of the Christmas Letter "debate"! I find them incredibly interesting and I love the pictures that accompany them but I'm a little intimidated now after hearing all the snark about them for so many years. It IS fun to make fun of the Smiths when they include the hemorrhoid or barfing stories, but I truly do love reading those letters and I've also got a lot to say dammit! (obviously!)

  • I love getting the Christmas letters. It always amazes me how everyone's lives are summed up in just a few paragraphs.

    I am such a lazy letter sender. I want to say I would like to get into the habit of it, but not really....


  • I LOVE getting my mother-in-law's Christmas letter--when we get one. Many times my family isn't mentioned at all and the TMI details about her and my FIL's health problems and all the amazing things going on in her life and the rest of the family's are....creative. I have to pump my mother and other family members about what was said as we are left off the mailing list most of the time.

    If I ever wrote a Christmas letter it would tell the truth about the year we had---and it's likely no one would ever speak to me again...!

    I do genuinely enjoy the catch-up letters from everyone else, especially old friends that I don't get to talk to very often.

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    Definitely thinking about writing a Christmas letter!

  • I can honestly say that I've never written nor received a Christmas letter; but I can also say that it's probably because I've never heard of such a thing, and neither has anyone I know.
    Interesting idea though. I probably won't write one. I'll be lucky if I get Xmas cards out.
    Hell, we still haven't mailed our Thank You cards from our wedding that was on Oct. 29th.
    We are the epitome of procrastination. So, the idea of writing a letter to everyone just doesn't even register.
    Good on ya if you get yours done, Nikki! :)

  • Nicole ~ As a grandparent -- not a mom -- I share most of your feelings here. But the other day I posted [Taking A Second Look] my unsolicited "Counter-Intuitive Advice for Moms." It has some special application to these grand-parenty holiday weeks coming up

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