Friday, December 22, 2006

Christmas letters

My mom has written an annual Christmas (now Holiday) letter since the 1970's. It is always one page and sometimes printed on red or green paper. Through the years the margins and font would get smaller to accomodate the packed lives we lived.

Its funny how the general concept of these letters are derided. Some should. The saccharine perfect people. Then there are the families that skip a year because of a death or divorce. One family we know wrote in painstaking detail about how the death of his elderly mother was complicated due to her mental illness. My husband has a friend who for years did the anti-holiday letter, sent around New Years, full of his death poetry and gruesome images. People often asked to be taken off his holiday letter list. Now he is married and the New Years letter is full of little ditties about their dog and living on the beach. I kind of miss getting a piece of mail on January 2nd with a picture of someone's eyeball hanging out of their socket.

As a child I looked forward to getting the Christmas letters from my parents' friends. For the most part they were people I didn't know. People my parents were close to years ago, before they were parents. I'm finding that there are many people in my life - people I adore and have wonderful memories with - who are just vague names to my kids.

Like the graduate school friend that let me crash at her apartment between classes and my overnight shift at the battered women's shelter.

Or the college buddy whose mom paid for my trip to Italy. She didn't want her daughter to travel alone for a month and thought I was a suitable companion. Insert laughter here.

Or the two guys I drove across country with. In a 1973 Dodge Dart. With no air conditioning. And only an AM radio.

I miss that consistent check-in holiday letters provided. I miss reading between the lines of what people were trying to say. Very few people write holiday letters now. I guess they are all blogging.

2 comments:

Jenn said...

Christmas letters are neat, no one in my family has ever really done them except my Great Uncle that I've never met.

I read a thing by Neil Gaiman once about how he'd labor over Christmas cards with cryptic messages and have his comic book illustrators do drawings for them. I thought it sounded fun. I can only get so many cards with kittens in Santa hats.

Kate said...

What great memories you have!

The letter with the eye socket hanging out sounds like something my husband would have done pre-kid days. That's exactly how he draws and we have a ton of those kinds of illustrations hanging on our basement walls near his easel. I think that's actually kind of funny (thanks to my weird sense of humor).