THE CHRISTMAS LETTER
To Send, or Not to Send. That is the Question.
Those were the days when receiving mail was still exciting.
My brothers and I would start watching the mailbox about a week in advance. We were waiting for birthday cards and Grandma always enclosed cash. CASH! A rare commodity for a nine-year-old. That feeling of anticipation made the waiting all the more fun. We had already picked out what we would buy and couldn’t wait to get to the store.
“Nobody sends cards anymore,” my husband said. It was his attempt to console me when I was telling him how stressed I was about getting our annual Christmas card in the mail. Judging by the steadily dwindling number of cards we receive each year, maybe he’s right. But I wanted to do it and was hoping to achieve a little motivation and encouragement by sorting through our past letters, as well as some of the letters I had saved from our family and friends.
Some of the cards included photos of pets … others didn’t. Some photoshopped in kids who had moved away. Other photos featured just the children, or just the pets. Some were collages of weddings, graduations, anniversaries, and vacations. You get the picture!
And some cards included the letter.
Has this ever happened to you? As you read about the wonderful vacations, new stuff, and the major accomplishments of others, do you feel bad about yourself? Does it seem like all your friends are doing amazing and great things and you’re on the verge of falling apart? When your kids felt this way, you told them, “Be happy for them,” or “I’m sure they worked very hard to accomplish that.” But that advice doesn’t even occur to you because what you are really thinking is … Why didn’t we take a trip to Bali this year? Or, why aren’t my kids getting married and giving me grandchildren?
As I sat at my computer and stared at the blank Word document, I wondered … Are there rules for the letter? Is one page too long? And when do I stop including the kids? The annual letters were easy when I had their accomplishments to add, but they haven’t lived at home for years. I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to write only about the good stuff. I probably shouldn’t include details of my bike crash and shoulder surgery. Or how I felt the day I found out that Frank, my beloved Ford pickup truck, had a blown head gasket and the mechanic said it wasn’t worth fixing. Or letting everyone know that my dog died despite my best efforts—cooking special meals and trying alternative medicine. All those things seem wrong to put in the letter.
As I racked my brain, trying to force myself to think of something worthy of writing about, an image from the movie As Good As It Gets came to mind. The movie stars Jack Nicolson and Helen Hunt as love interests, which sounds weird but it works. Both characters face challenges that seem overwhelming. Yet, despite the hardships in each of their lives, they find happiness together. No meet cute scene… just simply being together.
It’s true that we didn’t take an exotic vacation this year, and we haven’t had any big life changes. So I don’t have pictures like that to post. But underneath the daily grind, we had several bright spots. And I bet it’s like that for everyone. Most of us fill our days with mundane things like work and chores. The lucky ones of us have someone to do them with. I consider myself one of the lucky ones.
I’ll put that in my Christmas letter.