Hi everybody! I’m accused of writing less-interesting letters these days, but art imitates life, as they say. Here is Maria’s emergency email on 3 Dec. 2019, after reading my first attempt (which I wrote in the afterglow of Thanksgiving): “Dad wrote a depressing Christmas letter that I have rejected so now he says he would like each of you to send him a paragraph about your most memorable moment of the year--good or bad, serious or funny.” I think the main problem is “grown up” children: accomplishments are incremental and largely invisible to parents. There’s a reason people don’t make family movies at work, right? And so the weeks roll by in a blur of sameness. And the parents’ current routine looks shockingly similar to rejected material from last year’s letter! Some may think it wrong that our neighbors’ two-year-old twins—and their infant sister—are the most interesting element of our lives, but just you wait and see. Consider what our own family members said about that memorable moment of their year and then decide for yourselves what you want to read.
Riley (taciturn son-in-law): Yet to answer the request. Enough said. No need for quotation marks or to place my commentary in brackets. I nominate the ER trip after too much Tylenol for tooth pain.
Hannah (anxious, resilient daughter): “I drove to Chicago. I slept in my car sometimes. Gas prices were cheaper in the Midwest. Driving in Chicago was terrifying for 2 minutes, and then I adjusted and became really aggressive like everyone else and it was good. When I got to Chicago, I ate lots of food, went to lots of plays, and made fun of Renoir. Is that anything?” [Well, is it? Most people love a good road trip, I hear. She went solo, by the way, and it seems to be an extended “moment.”]
Hailey (affable daughter-in-law): Free-rode on Jordan’s terse response below. Enough said?
Jordan (laconic son): “Jordan went to China. Hailey works really hard and her career is on the same trajectory as an 86kg projectile shot from a trebuchet.” [He doesn’t usually refer to himself in third person. He did come back. Where did that career metaphor come from? Who even talks that way? Here’s what I know: every projectile goes up and then down. So which stage of the trajectory are we tracking? Meanwhile, did you picture many memorable moments there?]
Brooke (tender, tough, comparatively verbal daughter): “I guess one of the most life-changing
memorable moments, or series of moments really, was getting and working with my very first speech and language client. It was sometimes really difficult and exhausting, but overall very rewarding. It was cool to see him actually progress! And then on the last day, he gave me a gift and card, hugged me several times, and told me I was a great teacher. It was a very sweet and rewarding moment.” [Did it rate a selfie, or is that against privacy norms for speech-therapists in training?]
Maria (compassionate neighbor): “I can’t remember.” [I believe it; she sleeps too little and relies too much on her phone to remember everything. She is compassionate to neighbors, nonetheless.]
John (fallible narrator): “Lying on the exposed concrete kitchen floor, having finally mastered use of the wrench, I watched a little spray explode into a powerful stream of hot water shooting from under the dishwasher across the floor. I yelled and screamed and desperately tried (again) to close the valve under the sink. I yelled for Maria to shut off the main supply valve, then did it myself. We threw down towels to slow the spread of hot water across the room.” [Such terror, rage, and impotence crammed into a minute. But is it interesting? Liverpool 4-0 over Barcelona was interesting, but it also wasn’t really us—except that I yelled that time too, in dazed joy.]
And look at that! We’ve reached the end of the page. So, what do you think? Should next year’s letter simply tell the stories of Neal, Glen, and Anna? To clarify, they are not our kin; they have family of their own. But it might make for a better letter. You decide. And you’ll never walk alone!