The Kind of Christmas Letter You Actually Enjoy Receiving
This is the twelfth year of a family tradition. It’s the one thing I have been able to consistently produce every Christmas Season, though one year it came out closer to New Year’s Day.
Writers write. They don’t cook or bake or string lights. They might decorate trees and wrap gifts and shop online and go to parties, lots of parties, but mostly, they are supposed to write.
Which is how the ANNUAL REPORT came about. It started as a parody on the typical bloated letter inserted in to the perfect Christmas family photo card, hand addressed and sealed with glitter glue. And plus? I was bored.
I’ve been posting the reports that began in 1998 on my blog: another good thing.
Here’s one of my favorites you can find there.
We Survived 2001
Well, there is no nice way to say it, no pretty way to wrap it, no sweet scent to spray all over it … The year 2001 stunk. That’s right, stunk.
Like dead fish on the shores of Lake Ontario, like pond scum on a hot humid August morn, like Solvay when the winds blow in the wrong direction. Good riddance to the most sucky, stinky, horrible, pain in the patoot year in a really long time … say, since puberty.
And, I am sure, it is not just me who feels this way. There are people mourning the loss of loved ones, children who will never know their Daddies, soldiers far from home wondering how the heck they ended up in a war, and presidential candidates who, no matter how much facial hair they grow; have come to realize…..as stinky as it might be, you must accept … It is what it is.
Now, don’t get me wrong, you have choices.
You can commute for hours on the SureKill Highway and feel safe when you arrive home in a place where planes fall from the sky. You can travel to three states, firing eighty hardworking loyal employees of a company, who have all been on the payroll much longer than you, and feel like you performed as expected. You can accept a package from your Boss’s Boss, even if it’s not your birthday, sell your house in one weekend, then hunt for months for the perfect job in the Southeast, and feel like you might possibly be in charge of your destiny.
But still … can you smell it? It is what it is.
So, you try to make the best of it. You sneak off to The Dominican Republic for unlimited Bahama Mamas, and let your kids play with the Chocolate Friends on topless beaches. You encourage your three year old to use the big girl potty all the time, even if there are no more M&Ms. And, if you’re Boy C, you learn that a few missing teeth might make whistling impossible, but there are really neat things you can do with spaghetti.
You try to remember that your wife has wanted to live somewhere warmer for the past four years, seven months and sixteen days. You try to remember that there is something to be said for spending time with your loved ones, as long as you have your own bathroom. Hopefully, you will finally understand that S.T.U.F.F. stands for Silly Things that Underneath are only Fluff and False ideas. Unless you are Girl P, then you will learn that stuff means; all the neat toys and Barbies you used to have, that Mr. Man took away in his moving van to some far off place called … Storage.
With just a little time to think, say six months and three days, you will learn things. Mr. S. learned that people don’t always mean what they say, and sometimes they outright lie. And in the end, you have got to do it all yourself. And even though that sounds like something you may have heard on that special about the Mafia, that doesn’t mean he was ever in the Witness Protection Program, okay?
Linda learns that the Great American Novel was never written while trying to salvage a Schwenksville family from ruin and disgrace, or was it? By October, she has six chapters under her belt, a bevy of short stories floating around and a writing contest in the works.
But, she now understands why it has been said, you can never go home again, when she attends the twenty year High School reunion in B’ville. Mostly it’s because you can’t get a darned plane to take you there, even when you arrive three hours early, and then when you finally do get there, you drink and dance and talk so much, you just about kill yourself.
We learned that even though life may resemble a sad, sappy country western song, complete with jobless husband, broken down truck, nowhere to go, and a hangover to beat all, things will get better. And in the meantime, you can pop open a beer, turn up the radio and recite all those tired tepid clichés about life and love and dreams and hope and chance, to make yourself feel better.
With a few sleepless nights, you can discover the amazing job opportunities, interesting economic status and poorly edited newspapers of Tampa, Charleston, Wilmington, Orlando, the San Francisco Bay Area, Richmond, Dallas, Austin, Evanston, and small towns all over Georgia.
Sometimes you even learn things without trying. Like the fact that apparently most Americans don’t own a flag, or that your wedding anniversary will be forever known as the date of a humongous national tragedy, and that is not just the opinion of your in-laws or siblings.
In short order, we have come to realize that two unemployed adults, two rambunctious children and a large dog should never live in an upstairs apartment with cathedral ceilings and lots of windows, directly across from the playground. Oh yeah, also, rented furniture gives you backaches, cheap linens itch, and four plates are not enough.
But, we are happy to learn that our children travel well and adjust easily. They can mingle with the international apartment home contingent who speak little English, “Din How! Haji-Ma!” dance ballet and make best friends with Korean twins named Hunsuck and Hunsick, (I kid you not), while finding no reason to think any of that is unusual.
Even Kallahan learned that a glass window, a hardwood table and a steel door are not the best landing spots for a thick dog skull when chasing squirrels, flies or small children. Which is why he is now on drugs.
I am more thankful than ever for my friends and family and wish them all happiness over mine. I admit, there was a while there where I was hoping for a bone, just one little one. I guess that was my Donations accepted, Charity of Four stage. Hey, everyone else had their hand out, didn’t they?
But then, you come up with your own situation clichés, like:
“There are times in life where you need to feel the pricks on the rose stem to appreciate the beauty of the bloom.” AHHH.
“Sometimes, it is necessary to step into that puddle to realize you have a huge gaping hole in your boot.”
OHHH. And …” You can’t make the bed properly, if you are still lying in it.”OOKKAAAYYYYY.
At any rate, things will never be the same. And for that I am grateful. Yes, because …as smelly as it all may be, It is what It is.
So, that was how we made it to Georgia, because in this messed up, confused, hare brained world, you do whatever it takes to survive. And sometimes, you get what you want, if you fight hard enough.
We are living in a wonderful sunny state that we absolutely adore, where big haired girls with fancy nails stroke their Chihuahuas while sharing barbecue in old pickups with men named Bubba and Gus and Clint. Mr. S. has a new job that challenges him and not just his sense of direction. We bought a super house in a terrific neighborhood that Linda can’t wait to paint and furnish and Feng Shui. And Boy C and Girl P will grow up healthy and happy and blonde, with just the cutest li’l accents you ever did hear.
We hope that you and your loved ones made it through 2001 unscathed yet reborn, knowing what is important to you, without having lost something to find that out. I ask for your prayers and blessings for my family, for our needs both big and small, and in return
I offer this poem from James Broughton.
This is It
and I am It
and You are It
and so is That
and He is It
and She is It
and It is It
and That is That.
O It is This
and It is Thus
and It is Them
and It is Us
and It is Now
and here It is
and here We are
so This Is It.
And that is it from me. Happy New Year, y’all!