Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Christmas Letters

The first year I was married to the Engineer, I made the mistake of writing a newsletter to put into the Christmas cards we sent to the folks we didn't communicate with on a frequent basis. This, of course, set precedent. Now I have to do it every year. Don't know why, when I am so frequently afflicted with diarrhea of the word processor, but I have trouble doing it. And the two cats trying to jam themselves between my chest and the keyboard don't help at all.

When one is writing a Christmas newsletter, one must find exactly the right tone, bearing in mind that it's the season of cheer and that it's going out to a wide variety of people, from kids to octogenarians, broke to well off, liberal to conservative, It's got to be upbeat, but the folks who aren't sitting on top the world should be able to read it without feeling their noses are being rubbed in the writer's smug self satisfaction.

One must also consider how to handle the important events that are not so good. One can't just say, "Uncle Ed croaked last May and good riddance, he was a horrible old grouch." One must think of some unmistakable euphemism. "We lost Uncle Ed last spring," might mean he wandered off while touring Disney Land. "Uncle Ed passed through the pearly gates last May. We shall miss him, but have warm memories of time shared with him to console us." Smarmy, but the older generation will appreciate it. (After all, it's going to be them one of these days.)

An advantage of not having kids is not having to think of positive ways to portray what they're up to. "Jillian celebrated her high school graduation by getting plastered and knocked up by some unknown young stud. As she didn't tell us until too late for an abortion, we are still debating the options of adoption or keeping the little ba..." Good grief! You can't say that! "Jillian graduated from high school last spring and is currently exploring a myriad of paths opening to a bright future." That's what the politicians call "spin." Likewise, "Jeb got caught smoking dope behind the bleachers at homecoming and is serving 16 months in juvie," is simply not acceptable.

Fortunately for my Christmas newsletter, nobody died this year, or lost their job, or ran afoul of the law. My brother did get divorced, which makes me very sad, but I never mention him in the Christmas letter anyway, so I don't have to get into that. I did slip in that little 'we're real folks and life's not perfect' note though:

The remodeling project continues. Two humans, two cats and Wunx~’s computer all lived in one 12’x12’ bedroom for seven months -- you could, literally, call us a very close family. The upstairs is mostly finished now, though, and living conditions are much improved. The newly vaulted ceilings in living and dining areas and master bedroom give the house a totally different feel. That it no longer rains in the kitchen is also a plus. We like it.

And so it goes, nothing too bad, nothing too self congratulatory, try not to be boring and add a little humor as leavening.


Anonymous said...

This one made me laugh:)! KC

Kate said...

My friend, Anne, sends a Christmas letter each year and every bit of it is a lie. Her kids are Olympic athletes, the dog is a Rhodes Scholar (or, vice versa) It's the most entertaining thing I read all season. Shake things up this year, tell a few white lies!

janemngardener said...

Nice post! Everyone gets one "braggy" xmas letter to scoff at. A college friend of mine with 4 kids went on and on about their trip to China and all sorts of other far away places, sent a large photo sheet with about a dozen photos of ONLY the kids. No parents.
We do have kids and try not to come off either as smug or overly morose or graphic, but just update everyone. Kind of like you. Except I don't have cats on my chest while writing it.