The challenge of the
well-written holiday letter
I don't understand why people complain about Christmas letters.
I love them.
I don't receive as many as I used to, however.
The writers, I think, have aged beyond their interest in writing; their children have moved, the grandchildren are a disappointment.
No one wants to write about babies born without marriage wrapped around them, or men and women locked into emotional chaos, unable to commit or move on.
Most of my friends have people in their families who have fallen into traps of one kind or another - unable to break free, unable to make sense of their entrapment.
Even so, I wish they would write and tell me every grimy detail.
I'm in a sweet place right now. My kids are doing well - it's me. I'm the one everyone worries about.
Holiday letters are fewer and farther between...
I divorced the love of my life almost ten years ago. It was a good decision and I don't regret it. But I know now how much I loved him, and I know now what life is like without love at the core.
Moreover, I talk about it. I share my ambivalence with my children, my friends. And when given the opportunity, I write about it.
The holidays, of course, make everything crisper. My memories are strong; they have no edges this time of year.
I remember the impossible hope that surrounded my life during Christmas. My marriage was miserable, but the holidays gave me a new frame for understanding the commitment I'd set in stone, and the impossible task before me to make everything merry and bright.
I fool myself by telling myself that my children never knew how unhappy I was. Now that they are grown women, they tell me of their knowledge - they wonder why I waited as long as I did.
There's a reason, of course.
My former husband has married at least one other woman in the past ten years. He's not the kind of person who can make it on his own.
Perhaps I am not either, but I'm giving it a damn good try.
It would help, I think, if some of my coupled friends sent me the truth in the mail.
I'd like to read about the reality of their lives; the difficulties they face as they deal with the disappointments of failed expectations and the harsh ends to happy beginnings.
I don't need maudlin - I would like, however, honesty.
And I miss the holiday cards. Even when the writer was spinning the story to lead me to a delightful misconception, I was not fooled.
I know that none of this is easy. I know it in my bones.
If I were to read the surface and never dive below, I'd believe that everyone in my life, everyone in my circle is blissful in every part of their existence.
But I cannot skim. I'm a story teller, and so I dive deep, beyond the reach of sunshine. I go where no one wants me, wade in the mud, find the truth. Only then can I believe again in hope.
I watched Andy and his adorable wife, Claudine Longet dote over their beautiful and perfect children. The tinsel all around, the Osmond boys competing for the spotlight - for a moment I almost believed again.
Then I remembered - even as the special was broadcast, Longet and Williams were living separate lives. There was no "perfect" holiday for the William-Longet family. It too, was all a lie.
That's not fair. I don't wonder any such thing. I know for certain that the William-Longet marriage was a hoax on all of us and a painful experience for everyone involved.
The truth is not anywhere near as attractive as the glossy Christmas we all want to believe possible.
this is not to say that many of us are not happy - wonderfully so. This year, I'm encouraging my children to write the story of their year into a letter, send it via email to all of us. As I said earlier, they're doing fine.
If they do so, if they post their good news, I'll do the same and share my true story.
It's not all that grim. I'm not unhappy. I'm doing well - have a great home, terrific friends, family that love me. I've experienced an creativity blast this year unlike anything I've known since I was a little girl, writing short stories during recess.
Maybe this year the mailbox will burst with true stories, sent during a true time and sharing a real hope.
This has been one of the most challenging years in American history. I know I'm not the only one who senses it - the only one who has lived it with my eyes open.
That's why I'll watch the email and the mail box for the Christmas letters. I love them. I look forward to them. I still believe in them - and I still believe in the magic of the holiday.
Whatever your pain, the holiday makes it more poignant.
What ever your hope, these days make them more audacious.
Share it all.