The older I get, the more I enjoy receiving Christmas cards. I wallpaper my refrigerator with photo cards of family groups standing in front of everything from the family Christmas tree to African safari vistas. I gasp in disbelief when I come across wedding photo of a former backdoor neighbor's child. "Could Emma be that grown up already?!" The traditional cards are lovingly displayed on my kitchen counter. I pour over Christmas letters starving for news of my Christmas pen pals. Generally, people who write Christmas letters are the parents of gifted, talented, well-behaved children who regularly receive high, noble accolades befitting Olympic athletes. Then, there are my children. My Christmas letters.
Of course my children are amazing in many ways. Their feats of academic and/or athletic prowess come in drips and spurts. Their chosen college majors - audio acoustics, psychology, and business - seem banal when juxtaposed with some family's budding doctor, lawyer, or Indian chief. Phrases like "at the top of his class" and "paid internship in Paris" would not be mentioned in reference to any of my precious offspring.
Despite our family outings to help out at the local Food Bank, the boys have never embraced the joy of volunteering. Thank goodness that my children are all sons. No sorority would give them a second look due to their extremely lacking give-back-to-the-community resumes. Until one of them is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize or captures Osama Bin Laden, I will have no particularly outstanding or monumental deeds to report to my Christmas card audience. "Pulled weeds for a couple of hours at Nana's townhouse" or "drove Mimi to Chico's so that she could return a blouse" don't seem to measure up to the philanthropic excellence of some of my friends' amazing children.
Actually this year's letter would be pretty short. Bryce and Reed are students at Baylor University. Doin' good. Jonathan is studying at Columbia College Chicago. Doin' good. Alan and I are empty nesters. Doin' good. Dixie and Lily, our cats, are, well, doin' good. When the boys were little, they provided me with many funny stories. Nowadays, my hairy legged 18, 21, and 23 year old sons don't supply me with enough quality fodder to convert into a page full of witty, repeatable quips and quotes. To top it off, last summer we didn't trek to Norwegian fjords or the lost Inca city of Machu Picchu. Nor do we have "thumbs up " pictures from the Swiss Alps.
A friend and I once sat laughing as we listed the family "truths" that we would just once like to see published in a Christmas letter.
- Elroy has really enjoyed his second go-round in Mrs. Smith's third grade class!
- We are proud to report that little Winifred has gone without biting her classmates for three consecutive weeks.
- After years of screaming and yelling at our firstborn, Leonard, for all the crap he kept getting into during his tumultuous high school career, you can imagine our surprise when he decided to join the local police force. He said that he finally decided that if he couldn't beat 'em, he might as well join 'em.
- Gwendolyn recently passed her 3rd consecutive drug screening! Keep up the good work, Gwennie!
- If it weren't for our friends at Sylvan, Bonnie Sue would be having a devil of a time passing 6th grade math!
- Jim Ed is attending a local college, and we are paying full price due to his lack of scholarships! And, wouldn't you know it?! With our combined incomes, we don't qualify one penny of government aid or grants.
My mother once received a Christmas letter from a fellow octogenarian which listed, in chronological order, her year's disappointments, illnesses and hospitalizations. "In June, just after I recovered from a kidney infection that kept me in bed for 2 weeks, I ended up in the hospital with a nasty bout of gout." "My son, Robert, lost his job and was divorced by his wife of 20 years in early October." Her candor was as refreshing as it was depressing. I enjoyed her letter so much that I read it twice. Like an evening spent watching back to back episodes of "Hoarders," reading her "annual report" made me feel better about me and mine.
True confession. Sometimes when scrolling down the lengthy lists of sparkling accomplishments and adventurous international travels inventoried in a friend's Christmas letter, I glare at my own family and softly growl from the deepest part of my throat. Why, oh, why did we raise up such healthy, normal, somewhat average children? There is not an Olympic skater or super star professional chef in the bunch. My passport expired way back in the 80's. Perhaps if I wait about ten years, I can write nice, long letter about "my son, the amazing husband and recording studio guy"...or "my son, the involved, loving psychologist father," or "my son, the reliable Boy Scout leader and business man." Yes, sir. Those would be proud words, indeed. Go get 'em, tigers!
Merry Christmas from the All-American, Uber-Normal Lackeys!