We’re all aware that while constant connection due to social media is convenient and entertaining, there are many things that have been lost due to this advent of technology and instant, infinite contact. Some things have made me sad as I’ve watched them go… like actually sitting in the same room with someone and talking face to face. But other things?… Not so much. Some things, I was happy to see fall by the wayside. And in recent years, Christmas time has reminded me of one of those things. I am referring to the family Christmas letter. Remember those?
I used to hate them. Every year my mailbox would be jammed with fancy envelopes adorned with pictures of the baby Jesus and custom gold and silver embossed address labels. Inside were the letters… chocked full of bloated, flowery
lies stories about the family and their annual exploits. These always included (but were NOT limited to) fancy vacations, costly household renovations or new real estate ventures, overachieving brats children and their exhausted utterly thrilled and proud parents.
Of course accompanying the letters were the perfectly-staged “family photos” — everyone gathered ‘round the hearth in matching turtleneck / sweater combos that had either holly leaves, reindeer or snowflakes embroidered on them. (See above photo for perfect specimen.) OR said family was seen sitting serenely on some beach somewhere in coordinating white linens and sandals.
However, admittedly so, before I hated them… I wrote them. I know… I realize this makes me a bit of a hypocrite and one of “those” people, but at least I’m admitting it. I’m not proud of it, but there was a period of time in the late nineties that I wrote a few of my own. What can I say? I was young and stupid and when I first struck out on my own, how else was I supposed to learn how to act like an adult if I didn’t copy everyone else?
So I’d compile a letter “fluffing” up the events of my life in kind. And being a graphic designer by trade, my letter had to LOOK killer. Thus, I usually chose a theme (yes I said theme) and began its “development” in June. Therefore assuring that nothing worthy of note would be excluded and I would have ample time to procure excellent photos to accompany my
exaggerations ur… embellishments um… life events.
So, why did I stop? You may be wondering. I simply got tired of it. And like I mentioned at the beginning, I began to hate them. Sensing that I was, indeed, seeing through the entire charade, I grew weary of reading people’s letters. But even more so, I got tired of feeling the overwhelming need to create my own “utopian mirage” that for a mere 32 cents a piece (back then anyway) could be mailed directly to the residences of everyone I knew.
Family Christmas Letter season was like a printing and postal arms race. Who could cram more into their perfectly-printed letter by being the prettiest, happiest, richest, most-successful, most-fulfilled family IN ALL THE LAND!?! Just once I wanted to see someone compile a letter that was REAL. I never actually had the courage to BE that person… but it would have been so delightful to go to the mailbox and find something like this instead:
Dear Friends and Family,
This year has totally sucked. I hate my job. Bonuses were eliminated despite the fact that the workload has increased by 20 percent. Most weeks I work six, 10-hour days and get maybe four hours of uninterrupted sleep if I’m lucky. Little Larry is failing ALL of his classes and the school has begun tossing around words like “alternative learning programs” and “family intervention” and “expulsion for the betterment of the educational environment as a whole” — whatever THAT means. Our daughter Maude has contracted some sort of scalp fungus that has yet to be identified. My lovely wife Bunny has gained 30 pounds and I swear sometimes when I look at her I believe she is plotting my demise. I no longer eat her cooking.
We didn’t vacation this year due to the fact that the house is falling down around us. The roof is leaking, the bathroom tile is chipping, there is a strange greenish water spot spreading across the kitchen ceiling — the source of which I cannot find to save my life. Meanwhile I discovered asbestos in the attic while setting rat traps and no one will admit what or who caused a giant, smelly rust-colored stain on the living room rug. Unfortunately, none of it can be repaired anytime soon because financially, we are bust. We’ve run up 40K in credit card debt, Maude’s mystery fungus is bankrupting us and the car needs a new transmission.
Sadly, our beloved dog Walter died tragically in a Fourth of July fireworks incident gone horribly wrong and the kids are driving me crazy begging for a new puppy. However, there is one bright spot to report. September proved to be a better month when the lawsuit against me was dropped so long as I continue to adhere to the rules of the restraining order. So that’s a plus.
I’m not going to lie… I hope this letter finds you and yours to be just as miserable as we are.
The Sellers Family