I suspect that no one reads it, but that is not the point. For me, it is an opportunity to set out on paper the events of a year. It is a way of remembering.
One lesson learned is to neither brag nor whine.
The second thing is to underplay the victories and also downplay the defeats. In a time of recession, people do not want to hear about your trip to Belize. They will tolerate a mention of your hernia, but only a mention.
It is not that I wait in anticipation for Christmas letters, but they are better than just cards. Christmas cards romanticize the holiday without leaving a mark, but the letters contain the pathos of life. Of late, we have received too many that announce a death or illness.
There are the letters organized around the alphabet: “Aunt Ruth is in the nursing home. Bertram has a new girlfriend…”
Some letters follow the months of the year: “June, Peggy graduated from junior college, magnum come-loud-ah. She gets her brains from her dad.”
Still others are around family members:
“Jeff has been busy with the mortgage firm and should be out of prison by next September.”
A sign that your children are grown up is when you barely mention them, as they send their own letters out. This leaves room for you to detail how superior your grandchildren are.
Then there comes a time when the cards or letters stop and you do not know why. I grieved over the death of a longtime friend until we visited his hometown and bumped into him. He did not understand the fuss. He just stopped sending cards.
His reasons were that it saves money and trees just to remain silent.
It is odd how many people we communicate with at only Christmas. If you are like me and have moved a good bit, you rarely get back to those old towns. The once-a-year connection is enough to maintain the relationship.
I also, by the way, like pictures. I have kept them all and have a photographic history of a group of kids growing up and growing older.
Back to my letter: “We had a good year, but not a great one, mind you….”
• Mike McLellan can be contacted by leaving a message at DrMikeM@sbcglobal.net.