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I came closer than I ever have, this year, to writing a holiday letter.

In a season filled with corny joys — from my favorite holiday song, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” not coincidentally my mom’s favorite as well, to the “crazy house” with all the lights we drive by at least three times before Christmas — this is one I have always loved to loathe. Perhaps because some of my friends (distant friends, okay?) write such incredibly bad Christmas letters.

But this year, early in the season, I opened one and found myself loving it, wanting more, admiring the writing of the dad of one of Sophie’s classmates. I meant to save it and quote from it for you, but damnit, it’s floated away in a sea of holiday debris….

I read that letter, which so eloquently described the tribulations of raising a 5 year old girl and a 1o year old boy and keeping a money pit of a house together, and thought two things. First, that man can WRITE. (And they say law school sucks it out of you; not so with him.) And second, that I am a hypocrite.

What is blogging, if not a year-round Christmas letter? Who am I to criticize an innocent annual catching-up, when I expect you to slog through a blog nearly every day?

So I resolved to write my own holiday letter. (Insert sounds of throat clearing and knuckle cracking here. Also obligatory third person, the voice from which all holiday letters appear to be written. Also a lot of exclamation points.)

This was a challenging and enjoyable year for the Silverman Stern household! Sophie started kindergarten — mainstreamed in a classroom with 20+ kids and one teacher — and Annabelle is such a big girl, in the second grade! Sophie still loves Elmo and Annabelle has decided to be a fashion designer. Ray continued in 2008 to toss himself off mountains on his bike, and to climb increasingly challenging routes both in town and away. Amy (and no, friends, this is not a typo!) began training  to walk 13 miles in the PF Chang’s Rock n Roll marathon this coming January, and has already completed 11 miles! Both Ray and Amy love their journalism jobs. Ray won a coveted investigative reporting award this year, and was named the paper’s “master blogger”, which sure keeps him busy! Amy edited her fifth “Best of Phoenix” and got her hand back in the writing game by covering John McCain’s run the for the White House.

I stopped there. Could I now dive into a discussion of my near-nervous breakdown over McCain and Palin? I know people weave the negative into their holiday letters, but was it too much to mention the three funerals I attended this year, or the fact that now that we’re in our 40s, our friends’ health maladies aren’t just ACL surgeries anymore? Do I mention that I’m up in the middle of the night, most nights, imaging the complete impulsion of the newspaper (and thus my career — and Ray’s) and the erosion of any financial security our family might feel?

And Sophie, what about Sophie? Just this past Monday, the woman from the state agency that funds her therapies and habilitation care came for her 90 day review. It was a perfunctory visit, except for two things: Sophie, in rare form, and excited after unwrapping a big package of art supplies from a family friend, grabbed a pair of scissors (kid scissors, still in the package), waved them at the caseworker and and announced, “I cut you!”

The woman was very kind, even when she told me that unless we can find a doctor who will say Sophie’s IQ is below 70, come May — and her 6th birthday — Sophie will lose physical, occuational, speech and music therapy, as well as a lot of other services we’ve come to depend on.

So yeah, maybe a holiday letter isn’t the best idea. Unless it’s someone else’s. Yesterday the one that always wins my award for the Worst Holiday Letter of the Year arrived — and it didn’t disappoint. Two typed pages, single spaced, in the forced form of a “conversation” between the man and woman of the house — with cutesy references (this year — it’s a different theme every year, once it was brands of cleaning products, kid you not) to the “Executive Branch” of the house. For example, a description of storm damage really “rocked our Homeland Security” and the kids’ activities tapped their “Energy”. “Transportation” involved Disneyland and a trip to Florida.

I have a lot of nerve criticizing these poor people — they’re just trying to be creative — and as penance, I’ve decided to refrain from forcing my own holiday letter on them and others, for another year at least.

And I’ll resolve to not try to write multi-thought blogs on a morning before a major holiday when Sophie’s climbing all over me and I’ve just realized it’s days too late to make the bread stale for my mother in law’s stuffing, which we’re attempting for the first time this year.

Off to Safeway.

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3 Responses to “Dear Friends and Family: Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”

  1. I picked these cards from an English website. The author resides with her critters in the village Lurgashall, seen in the card scenes.

    For Sophie:

    For Annabelle, who likes fairies:

    From YouTube, this is for everyone else :-)
    Robert Earl Keen’s Merry Christmas from the (dysfunctional) “Famoly”

  2. robert polk, are you psychic?! i only just now got a chance to look at these cards (the girls are asleep; i’ll show them tomorrow!) and sophie’s was amazing for the obvious reasons and also because we have a black dog, rosy, the spitting image of the one in the card — and her late companion, elliot, looks(ed) just like the other dog! and as if that wasn’t enough, annabelle is going to the nutcracker with my mom tomorrow — so she’ll be delighted with the sugar plum fairy!

    THANK YOU and i hope you and your family had a joy-filled christmas!!! sophie’s final words to me as i closed her bedroom door were, “happy kwanza!” — part of her latest schtick.

    good night!

  3. lamy, loved the christmas blogs. i have same ambivalence about christmas letters. and how do you keep it all bright and cheery without being saccharine and shallow about real issues swirling about? OY!

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