I am sure we have all rolled our eyes at a Christmas letter or two in the past. As much as my entire family makes fun of my mother’s annual tome, she has used the annual letter to keep up to date with friends she would have otherwise lost track of forty years ago when their paths diverged. But at times Christmas letters feel like reading someone’s inflated resume to the power of five, and it leaves you with a feeling of jealousy and at the same time fraud. There is this imaginary gulf between those who seem to reap unfathomable success ( the writers) and those who don’t (the readers.) Feelings of inadequacy abound. The measure of a Christmas letter in the same way is how well you lie, inflate and manage your image. I suppose that is why people have entire careers in P.R., marketing, branding and the like- 20
% of the population are effective liars and 80% are gullible. I suppose the perfect recipe for a Christmas letter is probably a teaspoon of truth, a tablespoon of inflation, and one great heaping of omission. My mother has come up with some hilarious letters in the past. She has an extremely savvy way of crafting her letters, one such technique is to give away a huge revelation and then quickly there after hide an omission. It’s the time honoured technique of diversion. In 1999 I was the victim of just such a technique. In the first paragraph, she wrote:
“1999 has been a good year for us. Luci was at home with us and worked for a local TV ad radio station VSB for a year while she applied to grad school. She suffers from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome but is feeling much better after homiopathic treatment and a special diet.”
Yes she misspelled Homeopathic, perhaps on purpose. I am not sure she thought about whether or not I might not want her entire world to know the details of the disease I was suffering from. I wonder if she will list her ailments in the 2014 letter, that is a possibility I wouldn’t put past her.
In the next paragraph comes the omission.
“Giles has changed schools. Things did not work out at St. George’s in Newport, R.I. although he enjoyed the sailing.”
Fifteen years later, I am sure everyone can guess that he was actually expelled for something other than enjoying sailing.
Over this last Thanksgiving week my old advisor from boarding school came to Bermuda for a holiday. We got to chatting about my mother’s Christmas letters which everyone loves and she reminded me of the year we sent a spoof letter.
“We sent that letter?” I asked.
“Yes, I remember opening it and I only read the spoof side, and I thought to myself, my god what has happened to the Spurlings!”
Her young daughter agreed, “Yes I remember the year we got that letter.”
Her mother, my advisor replied, “It took a few days but eventually I realized that there was another more typical letter on the other side and I thought PHEW! “
This conversation dredged up the fragment of a memory- did we really send that spoof letter my sister wrote?
I called her up, “Anna Laura, remember that spoof letter you wrote a while ago.”
“Did we actually send that to people, I am thinking maybe we did to a few people.”
“I think maybe we did to a few people.”
“Did we send it to the Thomases?”
“You wouldn’t have sent it to the Thomases!”
“I think we did send it to the Thomases.”
“Oh my god, how many people did we send it to?”
“It was the toned down version though, not the first draft.”
“Yeah not the first draft with the unplanned pregnancies, chemical dependencies and inappropriate tattoos, yeah it wasn’t that wayward draft.”
“Phew, What year was it.”
“I think it was around 2007.”
“It was the year you were pregnant with Trystan.”
“Yeah before any of us had children and we had way too much time on our hands.”
I was inspired enough to dig through the family archive, which is my mother’s unreliable ancient imac, and found the very spoof letter, which is worth a chuckle even now. I am including it below, and at the same time considering drafting an updated 2014 version. If you are wondering, the puffer fish is still sending her annual puffed up letters. We have learned the hard way to cast an eye over it before it goes out, to catch embarrassing revelations, omissions and flat out misinformation like when she said my husband Chris, was the CEO of Island Press. It was her dream, not his reality.
Spoof Xmas Letter
Anna Laura got 2 cavities filled this year. She finally gave up smoking, but has plenty of wrinkles to show for it. She continues to drink heavily (she is a Spurling after all.) She is still dating the same guy for more than 7 years now and much to my dismay they are still not married, but will soon move in together and be living in sin. And he is not even baptized – can you believe it?
Luci is also living in sin with her boyfriend Chris. Thankfully he is baptized, but unfortunately he is more than 10 + years older than Luci. Luci also had a filling this year and now suffers from a stomach issues, which is probably a result of the copious from amounts of cheap wine she consumed in her twenties or it could be from the French kissing her dachshunds, Piglet & Piccolo (Don’t ask!).
Giles eyes failed him this year, he’s now blind as a bat just like his mother – how cute! At age 24,he’s still very much a momma’s boyJ! While at work “Four Eyes” calls home every day to ask his mother what she thinks about his every move. He gets all his laundry done for him, all meals cooked, all shopping done for him. And he doesn’t yet have to pay rent – however he still finds life quite difficult. It ‘s a rough life for my little baby G-boy!
Rick is a cigar sucking, slightly pudgy, but happy retiree. He spends an average of 5 hours a day sitting in his armchair puffing and a few more on the john pushing. He is too busy to play golf or exercise. In his retirement he has perfected the art of hovering over his computer leading to steady weight gain. My snoring keeps him awake all night and dogs barking all day prevents napping. Oh the golden years!!
I have had a couple of surgeries this year. The liposuction, the planned surgery, unfortunately was the one with absolutely no result. Ughaa… I guess I have to come to terms with the fact that my knees will forever be chubby. The other surgery I had was due to gorging myself on our European cruise. Due to overeating I developed a blockage in my bowel and had to have it removed in emergency in surgery in Boston. Unfortunately I didn’t loose any weight but rather swelled up like a puffer fish, although I must say it did help me float quite well while swimming this summer.
As you can see, all is well at Hard-a-Lee!