"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The abc's of Christmas

Before I start in on this Very Special Episode, can I tell you a secret? I was running Yet Another Holiday Errand yesterday, when I heard Dean Martin and Martina McBride singing "Baby, It's Cold Outside" on my minivan's radio. Honest to God, I sighed. One of those girlie, isn't he dreamy, sighs. Good thing no one else was in the car.

On to today's topic: Christmas letters.

It seems like Christmas letters polarize people. Either you love 'em or you use them in your fireplace, or you want to hunt the senders down and drown them in egg nog.

I like the ones that are well written. The ones that aren't - well, I don't begrudge them. They're giving me some news. Too much news? Maybe I can use Auntie's recent goiter surgery in my next novel. Braggarts? Ha, ha, I don't have to live with them. If they're just so painful and misspelled, my eyes reject the letters on the page, I give them a proper sendoff in the recycle bin.

My friends, Doug and Patty, used to send letters about all the exotic places they'd visit every year. It didn't make me feel envious - I felt like I was receiving a travelogue about a new country. Now they have a little girl, their first, and their letter bemoaned the fact that, now she's in school, there's a lot less African safaris on the agenda. Now I get to think, so now you know what our lives are like.

Then there's my friends, Paul and Suzanne. Suzanne writes the funniest letters. I mean, I'm humorous, but she's funny. Here's an excerpt from this year:

Paul is trying to teach his boxer, Buster, to say "mama." Sometimes I think he has snapped his carrot. Buster is patient with him and makes a lot of sounds that remind me of a dog being hit by a car.

She then describes buying a WiiFit and having it trash talk her, to the point she re-gifted it to a friend. Which, as she points out, doesn't make her a very good friend.

Note: I'm noticing that all of my Christmas letters are from couples, and the women write them. Is this a physical law, or something?

In 1995, I tried writing my first Christmas letter. It was a big hit with family and friends, so I kept writing them. They're now legendary, and have started fights in households ("Why can't you write a letter like the Carlines?"), something I have no control over, but feel badly about just the same. Truly, my letters are formulaic. Anyone can do them. Here's the process:

1. Pick a Christmas song or phrase that you can either build on, or make fun of.
2. Start with an intro paragraph, followed by one paragraph each for kids, husband, wife. Save one paragraph for things you did together as a family. End with a wrap-up paragraph.
3. Keep this to one page - This Is Important!
4. Sign each letter individually. Don't sign one and copy it.

Easy, yes?

Here's this year's letter, as an example.

Please Christmas, Don't Be Late

No, wait, don't listen to those chipmunks. Take your time, Christmas. If I could find a way to stall this holiday one more week, I would. By the time I get these cards in the mail, I'll have been to six concerts, a potluck and a couple of parties, all crowded into three weeks. Good thing I've scheduled a nap for December 26. In the meantime, what have the Carlines been up to?

Marcus is a senior this year, a fact that boggles my mind. He entered Valencia as a future engineer, and he's leaving as a musician. Most of his free time is spent writing music, and this summer he got to intern at a recording studio. He'd like to go to Cal State Long Beach's Conservatory of Music, to major in music composition, and perhaps get a teaching credential, just in case he needs a day job to support his dream of being a composer/arranger. My dream is that he gets his driver's license so I can stop schlepping him around.

Dale’s now on his 150th year at Raytheon. Okay, maybe only 30th, but it's a whole lotta years. He works late and comes home grumbling, which proves how much fun he's having. Even though Marcus has left sports to focus on music, Dale is still coaching - basketball. This year, he coached a team of 2nd and 3rd graders, many of whom had never played the game before. He also helped Art Sauceda with a team of 7th grade kids and won his first championship in hoops. As usual, Dale stays in the game himself, playing both basketball and softball this year, which gives him twice the opportunity for injuries.

As I reported last year, my book was published in August, and I feel like I haven't stopped running since. There are book signings to attend, author festivals to participate in, and Amazon rankings to check constantly. But I'm not just an author, I'm a juggler. I've still got my weekly column to write for the Placentia paper, and I'm the president of the VHS choir booster club this year. Between all of the balls I'm trying to keep in the air, it's a wonder I have time for the horses, but I do.

Speaking of horses, Frostie and Snoopy are both healthy as, well, you know. I usually ride Frostie at least once a week to keep her in shape, and I use her for the occasional lesson. Snoopy is rehabilitating so well that we may start showing him next spring, although I confess, the first time we let him run after breaking his leg, my heart stood still for several beats.

Carline vacations were pretty normal this year; we spent a week at Gold Lake and a week in Decatur, visiting with friends and family, respectively. They were both good trips and we had a lot of fun. On our way home from Gold Lake, the guys took the kids white-water rafting, leaving the ladies with no other option than to go wine tasting. It was a tough job, but we rallied.

By this time next year, I may be describing life in an empty nest. I'm not a weepy gal by nature, but I confess, lately I find myself thinking, "This is the last time Marcus does (fill in the blank)." As I spend time with his choir classmates, I see such bright stars headed out toward the future, and I want to watch their success.

When it comes to that, I agree with the Chipmunks - I can hardly stand the wait.

Love,
* * * * *
Add the Christmas picture to that and you've got yourself a holiday greeting. Okay, you've got two days and the blueprint - what do you want your letter to say?

5 comments:

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Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
dino martin peters said...

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