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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