how to write your christmas letter

With Thanksgiving rushing down upon us, it’s time to fire up the computer, drag out the camera and get everyone dressed up for the photo to go with the holiday letter for friends and family. The imagery around the idea sounds stale, and I think the last time I sat for one of those photos was back in the mid-1990s when my then-husband and I were living with another couple, trying to see whether four adults could handle one incredibly energetic little kid.  Our son did not, as yet, have a diagnosis, but he wasn’t making a habit of sleeping much, and when he got wound up around the holidays, it would make everyone a little crazy.

I get a sick feeling whenever I run across those photos, and I really don’t know why I haven’t thrown them out, except that tossing them won’t make that period of our lives go away. All of us smiling, but there was so much unhappiness in that household.

Every year I receive a few of those holiday letters, and I feel somehow guilty for not sending one in return. But there are some family situations that you simply don’t write letters about. Unless you just want to lie, and I’m not a fan of lying. My sons and I have spent a couple of Christmases sitting around, thinking what we could have written if we had sent out a letter:

Dear Family and Friends,

We hope that you have had a wonderful and fulfilling year. We are enjoying reading the letters that we have received, and we have been feeling badly about not sending a letter for the last few years, so we wanted to let you know what we’ve been up to.

Martin has graduated from high school a year ago, after seven years at his terrifically supportive school. He had planned to start taking classes at community college, but his anxiety has made it very challenging for him to do so. We have been experimenting with new medications to reduce his anxiety, but some days he thinks that he just doesn’t want to go to school anymore.  He’s been spending a lot of time walking, up to 10 miles a day, and he was also walking at night, but a couple of months ago he was mugged by a couple of guys with a gun. He refused to give them his wallet, so the man with the gun hit him a few times. He had to have several stitches for that, but on the way to the hospital, he was able to identify the guys who mugged him, since the police had caught them by then.  He’s since had trouble with more anxiety, but his face is healing well (see photo).

Pete is still unschooling and would be in 10th grade if he were in school. He knows lots of things that I don’t know, so I’m confident he won’t wind up working at Burger King, which is his father’s great fear. He’s a very modern kid and spends time talking to people from all over using headphones and a microphone.  He even has a girlfriend who lives up north and is also homeschooling because she’s too anxious to go to school. The good thing about them being so far apart is that I don’t have to worry too much.  Occasionally I take him to see her, but it takes five hours to get there. Everyone says I should make him ride the bus, but he’s too anxious for that.

I am still working for the university. I am able to use my degree to help them write things better. When the boys get older, maybe I will have more time to write the things I’d like to write.

The cats are as unmanageable as ever and send you all their best. I enclose a photo.

Happy Holidays!

So what do you do? Do you write fiction or fact, or do you send nothing at all? I feel better about the fact that I get fewer of these letters every year.  Either they are becoming passe or people are crossing me off their list.  Either way, they are saving themselves from the possibility that I will compose something like the above or even worse…I could become really bad and make the ridiculousness of the exercise more painfully clear.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash