I thought when I retired from that pesky day job, I'd have all the time in the world to get caught up on everyone's blogs (including my own), but first I needed to take care of a few things. Like getting caught up on Christmas. Which meant getting my cards mailed. Which meant writing my Christmas letter.
I didn't always do a Christmas letter. I used to start around Thanksgiving, hunting for that perfect picture of the family - or, not finding one, hunting for the family so I could take a picture - and taking the negative in to have twenty or thirty reprints made to encolse in my cards (only special people got a picture). Then came writing the same news over and over in a hundred or more cards until I had to pry the pen from my frozen fingers. When I first started receiving Christmas letters from other people, my reactions were mixed. They seemed a bit impersonal compared to a note written by a painfully cramped hand. Where was the holiday sacrifice? The letters themselves were a mixed bag. Some were funny, some were depressing, some were insufferable (oh, come on, you know the kind I mean). I decided to stick with my handwritten notes.
In 1998 I purchased my first scanner...and I wrote my first Christmas letter, complete with pictures. This was also the year my first grandchild was born but I'm sure that's merely a coincidence. I was ready to take the easy road. No more hunting for that one perfect picture, no more schlepping to the store to get reprints made, no more wearing my fingers to the bone writing all those notes. Just jot down a cheerful greeting, sign, and slip in a letter. How simple can you get?
Let me tell you about putting together a family Christmas letter. First you have to remember all the news from the past year. Flipping through the wall calendar is usually enough to jog the memory. Then you have to spin it. If it's been a bad year, you need to find the positive spin..."and if all goes well, Uncle Joe will make parole in time to celebrate Christmas at home next year." If it's been a great year, you may need to tone things down a little..."Seriously, by the time they took out the taxes on our lotto win, there was barely enough left to cover that little private island." If your kids happen to be over-achievers...(see insufferable, above). If they lean in the other direction, you might have to stretch to find an accomplishment worth mentioning..."and we were so proud when Little Johny passed his eye test with flying colors."
Now let me tell you about putting together my Christmas letter. First I have to find suitable pictures for each member of the family. Including the camera shy and the one who can't see a camera without mugging. Then I have to make sure I have the same number of pictures for each of my son's families and that the pictures are the same size. Believe me, I'll hear about it if I don't. I think they've stopped counting how many words I use for each of them but they still measure column inches. Tommy Smothers has nothing on these two. Do they do it just to make me crazy? Of course. Do they succeed? Yup - every time.
And so, I spent the first week of my retirement, not working on my book, not reading and commenting on all those excellent blogs; I spent it giving birth to an upbeat but not too cheerful, serious but not depressing, proud but not boastful, and perfectly balanced family Christmas letter.
Sure am glad I took the easy way out.
How about you? Do you write one? Do you receive them? Like 'em? Hate 'em? Be honest.
I'm currently enjoying: The Mummy Case by Elizabeth Peters (Haven't got any reading done the past week either.)
Groaner of the Day: Did you hear about the Buddhist who refused Novocain during a root canal? He wanted to transcend dental medication.