Friday, December 27, 2013

The Christmas Letter

Dear friends,

We just received your Christmas letter

and are delighted to know that everyone

     is even better than last year,

that your children are all at Harvard or Yale,

that you went to Bermuda or Barbados

     for  vacation

that the wives are all in law school,

the husbands were promoted

and the cat is doing TV commercials.

Things here are about the same:

chicken pox, high heating bills, and the

      lawn furniture is rusting.

Mom is still trying to potty-train the youngest.

Dad gave up running because of shin splints.

How come adolescence is such a sullen time?

And when did grandma learn to post on YouTube?

Life is as usual

except it is not.

Suddenly there is a blaze of bright

that is December sunset against snow,

and suddenly I know what I must write,

which is also true and, more important,

     also right.

We are even better than last year,

what with Mom taking zumba

and Junior’s basketball scholarship

and how the baby dances in front of the fire,

the heat curling copper ringlets on her neck.

We traded that wreck of a car for a new red


and one middle-aged man

has met his dream.

Life is a circle, but not at Christmas

At Christmas, it is a perfect sphere, unseamed

 like a silver ball

reflecting only joy in miraculous shimmer.

Best regards.


  1. This hit home for me. Although I love to hear from friends and enjoy their triumphs, there were bleak years that felt even darker when I compared my life to the excitement and, yes, wealth of others. I should have known better than to believe that there is such a thing as a "perfect" life. We each have our share of happiness and tragedy.

    1. Yes, I suppose most of us play that no-win comparison game. The holidays are a time for taking stock, anyway, and when you read those letters with only the good things included, it's wise to remind yourself that many people tinsel up their lives for public presentation. Behind the scenes is another story,

  2. I suspect the Christmas Newsletter may be a vanishing breed, since it usually goes to the realm of people who you want to connect with, but not in a continuous fashion. Today those people are your FB friends and they know about the milestones, as well as such annoying details about daily living as you might care to post. The gloss of newsletter tidings will remain, I fear, only for those Luddites who choose to eschew or ignore the daily bombardment of existential trivia. Sincerely, the FB Grinch

    1. Snail mail, itself, is a vanishing breed. But I for one, will mourn, the demise of the Christmas letter.. With all the stuff that comes through email, and the constant updating on the social media, you'd think I'd be on info overload. But there's something folksy and homey about a paper letter that seems in keeping with holiday traditions. I heard the other day that, because of concerns with toxic metals in tinsel, it's now being made of plastic. That struck me as sad. Prudent, but sad..

  3. I loved that the cat is doing TV commercials! I do want to read some of these letters to find out about the lives of people we don't see often. (And there ARE people who refuse to get on FB. We had dinner w/ some last week.) I imagine what I would write and then go back to what I'm supposed to be doing at the moment.

    1. Yes, there are still many people who eschew the social media and keep their day-to-day lives as private as is possible in this age of compulsive sharing. I feel special when I get a holiday letter from them, because I know that means they consider me a friend.

  4. You have captured the feel of the dreaded holiday letter perfectly--a hilarious post. It is a dilemma though--if I send all the woeful news--pop is on a ventilator, mom just had a hlp replaced--it's a downer. If I tell the good news--Joe Jr. just graduated summa cum laude from Stanford and his sister will be starring in her first leading role at the Met--readers will want to kick me.... Hope you have a great New Year.

    1. A guess it's the balance of a bit of bragging and a soupcon of whining that makes for the perfect Christmas letter. With that balance, it becomes an annual reckoning of the human condition and a reminder that we all experience the ups and downs of life. Happy New Year to you, Nancy.