Holiday Letter

by Louise

Very few people send out holiday letters anymore but two of my relatives do and I must say I have enjoyed reading them.  Their letters are balanced, not over the top cheery nor down in the dumps.

It has been a tumultuous year. Capture that spirit in your own holiday letter spoof. You can pretend to be someone else. Make us laugh, spread the cheer!


67 thoughts on “Holiday Letter

  1. Well, we’re all still alive!

    The year started uneventfully enough. Dad’s single New Year’s resolution was to avoid eating ice cream at home…as if that would stop him from running out to Coldstone whenever he could convince a kid to go with him! But, truth be told, we have had a lot more room in the freezer this year!

    None of the people who need to has lost any meaningful amount of weight.

    Youngest took two trips with his school, one for complete fun and one was “mission work.” While he probably got more out of the trip than just realizing how fortunate/spoiled/easy his life really is, we think that was the main benefit. Middle did an academic trip for 5 weeks in the summer to a remote part of a small European country which may actually help him get into the grad school of his choice. Mom & Dad visited him at the end of his stay since we never would have put that place on any bucket list. A good choice.

    Oldest worked retail, moved into his own apartment in a ‘racially diverse’ neighborhood in a very large city, and finally, finally we say, earned his AA degree after only 4.5 years of college. We are indeed proud! Onward and upward.

    We paid off our mortgage!

    We bought another car this year, which means since 2011 we’ve bought a car every year except 2013. Average age of our fleet is now 6.5 years, down from 11+ in 2014, so maybe we’re out of the market for a while.

    The house is in the ‘money pit’ stage, so despite paying off the mortgage our monthly cash flow has not increased. We installed a new heater and air conditioner in the fall and look forward to having our back deck and front walkway redone in the spring. At some point soon we’ll need to replace the oven, and the roof.

    We think middle will make the Dean’s list at his college this semester…the first in his generation!

    Mom is still Mom. Too OCD about how things should be and driving everyone else nuts because of it. But she does a great job of taking care of the rest of us, so on balance it works out!

    Youngest has been accepted to some colleges he likes and which he should have gotten into. Because of this, Dad & Mom have begun wondering what they’ll do when they become empty-nesters next year.

    The Trump election has generated a lot of ‘lively’ conversations in our house. At least we have something to talk about.

    Peace to all!

  2. Oh, please don’t make me work today — I have the interminable year-end compensation call in 18 minutes.

    Although, come to think of it, that might leave a bunch of brain cells free to do something else. . . .

  3. Hope it went well Laura.

    My parents alway write the lowest key letter ever. “Dad is older than he was last year but not dead. Mom does her stuff that she likes. Kids are not in jail and grandkids seem like ok people. Merry Christmas.” Typical Midwestern downplaying.

  4. They are something. I’m working on a blog post about Christmas with them. I’ll send it to you when its done.

  5. @Moxie – that sounds like something my parents would write, if they would ever draw attention to themselves by writing a Christmas letter. My mom is a frequent FB poster, but it all about her various causes, not about herself.

  6. I am dreading cards. My mom corresponded with people at Christmas and a few cards have started coming. So, now I have addresses to let them know she passed. Not looking forward to this. I need to get cards….

  7. Austin, can you get something printed up so you don’t have to write it again and again? Sort of a we regret to inform you kind of thing?

  8. RIsley, just wait a week, there will be an article about how nagging mothers and unreasonable expectations create eating disorders and anxiety.

  9. Just gonna post this because it is so quiet today. People Magazine write up on Susan Ford, daughter of Gerald, aged 17. Stunning – could you imagine a President today saying their child is going to a Junior College? Oh and they print her height and weight so that’s kind of the same!

  10. Timely post. Mr WCE finished our Christmas letter last night and we’ll send it to a couple dozen friends and relatives, along with a family picture postcard, via snail mail. I expect our relatives will update last year’s family photo with this year’s on their refrigerators, as we do for them, so the kids can figure out who their cousins are and DH’s and my aunts and uncles can observe how the kids have grown.

  11. The best part is the reason that she is going to Junior College – “A woman, she and her parents agree, ought to be able to earn a living.”

    This is where I realize how much the world has changed since I was born. Susan Ford is younger than my parents. My mom & her older sister both went to college (first generation to go), and they both worked in the 70’s when they were in their 20’s. I can’t even imagine how different their experience has been than mine.

    This is also fantastic:
    “Since she has moved into the White House, Susan has had to give up babysitting, but she continues to see her favorite clients, the Abbruzzese family of Alexandria, Va. Not long ago, 6-year-old Anne Abbruzzese was visiting the White House as an overnight guest. At one point in the evening, Anne called home to ask her slightly abashed parents if they’d like to talk to the President. Oh, no, they demurred, he must be awfully busy. “No, he’s not,” Anne said cheerfully. “He’s just sitting here.””

  12. I feel guilty that we don’t write Christmas letters or send out a card, but not guilty enough to actually do these things!

  13. @Ris — well, that is 100% accurate for me and DD, though I don’t know whether it is a “daughter” thing vs. a “personality type” thing vs. a “universal kid” thing. And I think Moxie is probably right, too. :-)

    DD has always been the one who pushes back verbally and then complies (e.g., having a tantrum about cleaning her room, while actually cleaning her room). She is also insecure and so seems to need that validation of high expectations repeatedly. I just have to hope that it will pay off in the end.

    E.g., Sunday night, total meltdown about paper due Th that she had forgotten about. I talk her off the ledge, work from home Monday so that I could set aside several hours to see what she’s freaking out about and (as usual) translate her teacher to her (surprise, teacher doesn’t actually “hate” her). She works for a few hours, sees that she can actually do it, but then it’s like 9:00 and she still needs to revise intro paragraph and fix the cites like her teacher asked, so she leaves that for later. Wed. night, I ask about the remaining edits, and with basically no warning, she goes ballistic (I think she had forgotten and already printed it out and thought she was done and did not want to dive back in). So she gives me all sorts of flak about how it doesn’t matter, how it’s just a peer review; I (relatively calmly) explain that when your teacher puts the dots that close together, you freaking DO IT, she goes into a full hissy, which of course then triggers DH to yell, and then ultimately she complies but with tears, and she does the bare minimum.

    I just have to hope that nights like that will actually be worth it in the long run and that when she’s in college and remembers something she forgot at 1 AM, she hears my voice in her head and fixes it. But it’s always a balance between when you intervene and when you give her the freedom to learn to manage on her own, and you never know if you hit the right balance until years later.

  14. I really love receiving cards, which is why I make myself stick with sending them – trying to keep the tradition alive! I love the cards now that let you put a family picture on the front, and a short letter on the back. It’s just enough to get the flavor of the family’s life but not so much room you get every. little. detail.

  15. “Her one steady boyfriend, Gardner Britt, 18, is the son of a Ford automobile dealer in Virginia.”

    I know that family through the Navy. I think that must be his father.

  16. “Oh, no, they demurred, he must be awfully busy. “No, he’s not,” Anne said cheerfully. “He’s just sitting here.””

    It’s kind of like when Ellen got Jenna Bush to call her dad:

  17. Moxie – do you remember all the corny commercials from the 80s with like 5 boys? I went to school with one of them.

  18. We send out a holiday card. I like the tiny prints ones with multiple pictures; they are great when the kids are babies/little and change so much through the year. This year we got great family photos so I put a bunch of them on the card. The holiday card list started with our wedding invite list and has been edited over the years. We don’t get many cards when compared to the number we send out.

  19. I think most or all of the brothers are still active in the family business. They have an empire of car dealerships.

    Ted was their grandfather, but I don’t think that’s his real name. I used to hear all this history because we hung out a lot.

  20. I love getting the picture cards – my kids tape them to our big wine rack in the dining room. There are no letters on them – just Happy Holidays/Merry Christmas with a picture of everyone’s family on them. I’ve done half of mine and should be doing the rest right now .

  21. “The holiday card list started with our wedding invite list and has been edited over the years. ”

    Same here. I don’t think I’m going to get around to a card this year though.

    That VF article about the Susan Ford prom is amazing. The fact that she broke up with the Ford dealer heir because he didn’t support the ERA.

    So many good tidbits:
    “Susan liked life in the White House, partly because, after having been raised in a crowded house when she wasn’t living in a dorm, it was the first time she had ever had a bathroom to herself.”

    “I was told that we had to choose a band that didn’t have any kind of drug charge,” recalls Helen Clark Atkeson, who chaired the prom committee and is now a lawyer in Denver. “They wanted to keep it squeaky clean, and it was pretty hard to find someone who met the criteria.”

    And this:
    “Her Secret Service men used to hang out in my office,” Alexander says. “I asked one of them one time, ‘When Susan goes on a date, how close do you have to be?’ He said, ‘Sally, our job is to protect Susan from outside danger, not to protect her from herself.’ ”

    Funny! I always felt bad fro the Bush twins too. They were teenagers/college kids, and some of the things they got shamed for in the media were so shockingly normal. (like drinking at parties) Same with Malia.

  22. “Austin, can you get something printed up so you don’t have to write it again and again? Sort of a we regret to inform you kind of thing?”

    Or perhaps a celebration of her life card? Perhaps photos of various stages of her life, with a handwritten note along the lines of, “Austin’s mom enjoyed your friendship and all the cards you sent her through the years.”

  23. Coincidentally, one of my college roommates was the son of a Ford/Lincoln/Mercury dealership owner in New York. He, and this other guy we’re talking about, always had brand new cars on loan from the dealerships that they could drive right up to 5k miles, then they’d give them back to Dad to sell as “dealer demos,” and pick a new one off the lot. Usually Explorers.

  24. From the other thread…thanks for the tip advice. Splitting the middle, $50 seems fair.

  25. @Milo – I had classmates in HS & college who did the same thing. I bet it’s normal Dealer MO.

  26. “If you don’t have time to read, just look at the pictures – they are AWESOME!”
    And I SO love the fact that Susan Ford and her date are dancing the Bump! There is nothing that says 1975 like The Bump.

  27. Risley – I couldn’t find a link to the actual study cited, but what they are describing doesn’t sound so much like regular nagging, but the sort of fearful prodding a Mom might do to make sure there are no grandbabies at an early maternal age, as well as instilling the expectation that the daughter should plan on being able to support herself and her children if any. I know a fair number of young men from my social cohort who take a decade or two to “find themselves”, and most of them avoid becoming fathers during that time. (In a less advantaged or more religious cohort the proportion of fathers is likely higher.) I know very few similarly situated young women who follow that path who don’t end up with a kid or two.

  28. Back OT, we used to write holiday letters annually when the kids were young and there were lots of changes to be reported every year. Once they were both established in school, changes were more incremental and we got a lot busier, so we haven’t done them in a while.

    I think next year we may do one, since we will have one very big change to report.

  29. Just catching up on the pizza thread this morning and smiling at the mention of Pontillo’s and discussion about Wegman’s. When we lived in Fred’s backyard we frequented both. The glory of Wegman’s was that on Christmas Eve, all 26 checkout lines were open and staffed. My MIL liked to go there and marvel. I think about it whenever I’m in Walmart or Target on a busy shopping day, and there are 20 checkout stations, but only 4 are open and the lines are very long.

  30. Ok, totebaggers, you let me down. I was expecting our creative group to post some funny fictional holiday letters from characters we know and “love”, like MMM or Melania Trump or helicopter calc-track-obsessed parents, etc. ;)

  31. COC,
    how about an excerpt from an actual letter I received last year (names have been changed)

    “Ryan followed in Tripp’s footsteps and scored a perfect 36 on the ACT! We were surprised, because with travel soccer, class president, and debate, he didn’t have any time to take a prep class. Lots of pressure on Chip and Zach now, but we recognize that all our boys have different gifts, and any pressure they feel comes from their own desire to excel.

    I’m in my last gig as a PTA president – really! With four busy boys, and a husband who travels internationally for work (what a great provider he is!) I just hang on for the ride and watch it all happen! We are so blessed.”

    I couldn’t make this up.

  32. “Or perhaps a celebration of her life card? Perhaps photos of various stages of her life, with a handwritten note along the lines of, “Austin’s mom enjoyed your friendship and all the cards you sent her through the years.”

    Yes Finn +1

  33. Finn +2

    I will do a funny one for our family, if I have time later. Have been off fighting bronchitis and dealing with (temporarily) sick children….

  34. I have no desire to craft a humorous fake letter, but I will take this opportunity to write my own semi anonymous truthful (albeit with omissions) letter. I can use the Totebag to get it off my chest. It would be wonderful if IRL we could avoid the need to keep up appearances, although in most cases the full story is more information than anyone, including family members or real friends, really wants to hear or bear. So here it goes with names changed of course.

    Dear Friends and Family,

    I am very happy that I didn’t try to write this letter for Thanksgiving. Although personally for me the year has been just fine, the extended family has had its ups and downs.

    As you all know, Neil was diagnosed with congestive heart failure in July 2015 and really only got back on his feet this summer. We took a nice trip to French Canada and a river cruise on the Columbia and Snake Rivers. Both were overall successes and he was able to handle the activity level. But increasingly during the year his lifelong major depression flared up and he became very disagreeable and unable to deal with details of life (more than usual). I was tearing my hair out trying to take care of him. But he finally was able to recognize how bad it was getting, took matters into his own hands and got his medication adjusted. The new medication has had immediate positive effect and he is cheerful for the first time in the fifteen years I have known him. I am actually having to adjust to a new dynamic – all of my serious relationships have been with poorly treated depressives – it is exciting but a bit scary.

    Tim and Debbie have been having a very hard time. I told him repeatedly that he had to expect a rocky few years after the sudden cross country move, the new home, her cancer and year of treatment, and her being stuck at home with three small kids. Nobody has done anything rash or stupid, thank heavens, but it has been so tough over there that I bolt as soon as the babysit is over, or have the kids here. They are getting along a bit better in the last few months, but if they weren’t so locked in with the big house and family and a modest (for their situation) income, I am sure they wouldn’t have managed to wait this period out. [Rant omitted] Coco (7), Zazu (5), and Alice (3) are thriving and loving. Zazu gets into the most trouble, but nobody would find her that difficult if she were a boy doing the same stuff.

    Sophronia moved back home to Mom’s basement in August. She stayed in LA a couple of years longer than perhaps was ideal, but she had sufficient funds built up from her ten plus years in finance to take a three year rather than just one year sabbatical. The first month, with the endless boxes of shoes and clothes arriving and not much information about her business venture, taxed my resolution to be non interfering to the max, but after 5 months we agree that the living situation has vastly exceeded expectations for congeniality. It is sufficient to her needs, but not so comfy that it will go on indefinitely. She has re-established all her East Coast contacts, helped set up a new business but decided to step away from a partnership role and remain a consultant as she takes the next steps in her career. She may end up in Manhattan, since she found out that 200 miles is close enough to maintain family ties – 20 feet to 20 miles is not required.

    Rebekah had an up and down year. She still has a steady Federal job in NoVA, walks to work from her tidy condo, spends a lot of time on her aerial (circus) activities. She actually had a boyfriend for six months. He was a compatibly quirky guy for her, but so different in background and politics that it is probably good that they broke up by June. One of her cats (16 years old) is fast approaching the rainbow bridge, and her car was smashed up (insurance didn’t cover), and there was the election, of course, so her seasonal affective depressive disorder was so acute this year that she finally bit the bullet and took her medication for the first time in her life. Seems to be working as intended.

    Will continues to do theater in NoCal with great reviews, and keeps his day job doing software development in the non profit sustainable food sector. We thought there might be a proposal to celebrate this fall, but Janey indicated that the time was not right so it was put on hold. They have clearly found their life mates, but he is ready to settle in and start a family, and she is not. They own a condo together and collaborate artistically. He is trying to find that millennial balanced life – work for pay about 30 hours a week with time for everything else, and she wants to see it in place first.

    As for me, after three years of retirement I am adjusting to my life. In the summer lots of kayaking and travel, in the winter congenial bridge games with women partners in preference to fraught games with Neil, babysitting for toilet trained kids who can come to my house and likely not harm property or living beings if I turn my back. Every year the net worth goes up even if I spend money like water (Totebagger scale, so not profligate, just not parsimonious). Mortgage retired; both of us on Medicare. Cats are delightful, but Cinna still has a seizure every two months. After the election, my friends were all in a tizzy about “what do we do now?” I am still working it out for myself, but my inclination is to be focused on real hands on charity, not politics or user fees/repayments or stuff that benefits my family disguised as charity – continuing targeted giving (a few big donations and small ones to my friends’ charities), but increasingly local and in situations where I can partner with like minded individuals. And so many of my acquaintances are becoming elderly and a bit unkempt mentally and physically, and are in need of rides and visits or a bridge partner who doesn’t mind the lapses, and I am still in the prime vigor senior citizen years.

    So not such a bad year after all.



  35. Mémé — aerial silks is a hobby of my oldest son’s as well, interesting to hear that your daughter is into it.

  36. She does static, dance and flying trapeze, mostly. She timed it well this weekend with the weather and is down at an adults only Club Med with her friends – they have pieces of apparatus that her home club doesn’t have. One of the other reasons she broke up with the boyfriend is that the relationship flourished during a period when the rig was closed for three and a half months while it relocated to a great permanent facility. When it reopened, she didn’t have enough time for him.

  37. Meme – I am glad to “know” you through the Totebag and hear the advice and wisdom you have to impart.

    I had a humorous fake letter in my head but couldn’t type it yesterday. I am transitioning to my new job. It seems I can keep my flexibility but the group locally is all guys who have grown kids or in two cases SAH spouses. Also, there have been divorces in the group. What this means is that there is no urgency to leave the office (gym is done before work). I need to apply my work style that allows me to be effective without spending hours physically being in the office. The work itself I can pick up pretty easily.

  38. My oldest DD does trapeze too. I love taking her to class so that I can watch the silks practice. Practically a free Cirque du Soleil weekly!

    Also, I can confirm that Milo is right about Chuck e Cheese pizza. Just had some today. It is now edible. Still not great, but much better than before.

  39. A couple friends send out photo cards. I don’t do holiday letters, and don’t think my friends do either (or maybe they just don’t send them to me because they don’t get one from me).

    My parents started writing them in the 80s, I think, and still do so faithfully, even though most of it is about grandchildren. I’ve helped them print it for several years, setting up the indents and paragraph spacing as they wish, giving them their choice of font type and color, etc. I recall being amazed as a child that my dad could type without looking, and so fast! I have no idea what his typing speed actually was, but taking typing in high school I thought it was cool that I too, could look at the page and not the keyboard, just like him. So I was saddened a few years ago when they asked me to type the letter for them. That’s become an annual thing too. This year I noticed that they included some grandkids’ plans for coming months, but not their own. Mom quietly told me that they don’t want to announce what they may not be able to do.

  40. Meme, that was a great letter. Thank you for sharing it. I was sorry to read you’d had such a difficult several months with “Neil” and am glad that appears to be over. I hadn’t considered how odd it would feel to relate to a properly medicated person after years of figuring out how to related to those who are improperly medicated. But I’d prefer you have to deal with an uncharacteristically cheerful partner than a difficult one. It seems you function as much more than just the family matriarch, and I’m sure it’s more stressful than you let on here. I feel better knowing your daily interactions have become a lot more pleasant.

    I feel the same as Louise–I am glad to “know” you here, and I appreciate your wise long view on many issues. I think about you quite often, when I see a commercial for a fancy watch or see someone who looks like I’ve imagined you, or hear news about Boston or the Red Sox or the NY opera.

  41. HFN — It’s hard to believe that’s a real letter. Sheesh!

    Meme, thank you for sharing your letter. And Fred, too. I can relate to many aspects of your years in review, some ups and some downs. As time goes on I think I’ve become more accepting of the downs and more appreciative of the ups. Last night at a small gathering I visited with two wonderful senior citizens, one 89 and the other 94. Both lost their spouses a few years ago and have obviously lost many other loved ones over time, but they are as full of life as any people I know. I loved being with them, and I hope I can also continue to enjoy life, even with all its difficulties, as I approach old age.

    One thing I know from experience and observation — a parent will always keenly feel their children’s happiness and disappointments no matter how old the children are. I would describe this as both a blessing and a curse.

  42. Ah, I didn’t see Fred’s. That’s great that DS1 has finished his AA degree, Fred. Sounds like he has sorted himself out. A good reminder that all the advanced math–>study prep–>NMSF–>HSS chatter (not to mention pressure) is relevant (and useful) only for a certain subset of kids, and that subset is not “kids of Totebaggers” but rather “kids who randomly fall into the subset regardless who their parents are or how they were raised.”

  43. I am enjoying Mozart in the Jungle (more than it warrants perhaps). It is such a madcap show about classical music and the places the show takes you to like Mexico and Venice makes me want to rent an apartment and visit for the summer.

  44. A friend of mine has one of those collapsible scooters she gate checks it like a stroller. She is taking it on a plane next month following knee replacement

  45. I’d like to echo Risley and COC’s comments regarding Meme’s letter and all your contributions to this blog. I have only been a recent contributor here but have been reading from the original site from way way back when my “juggle” was intense – now I am retired have a couple of adult children and an almost empty nest with DS3 being a sophomore in HS. I often think about past conversations and “wisdoms” (parenting, being a daughter, sister, spouse, worker, manager, colleague- ) hearing from the variety of people on this site helps me be in other people’s shoes. I really appreciate it.

  46. In strak contrast to the letter HFN posted, my new colleagues have kids coming of college age and there seems to be no obsessing over college. One kid has two college acceptances one in state, another to the Univ. of Tennessee but the kid is likely to go instate due to cost. Said kid is still awaiting Univ. of S. Carolina. Not good enough grades to go to state flagship.
    The Totebag bar is so much higher than I encounter IRL. The highest ranked college another colleagues DD applied to was Brown.

  47. And you know what, Louise? If the kids are pleasant and modestly attractive and reasonably hard-working, they’ll do just fine.

  48. I’m looking for host/ess gift suggestions. We’ll be spending a night later this week with some dear friends who are a bit older than me–their kids are ten years younger than I am, so the friends are grandparents now. They are lively, interesting, creative people with solid roots, and their activities in the near-decade since retirement continue that trend. I’d like to take something classic, maybe with a classy twist, but a bottle of wine can’t go on the plane, and taking flowers to their house seems silly in the summer, with all the cut blooms from their garden. I expect that in the winter they will have lovely arrangements already. I don’t think candles/potpourri would go over well–that’s more cliche that classic. Any suggestions?

    Louise, I don’t understand. Isn’t USC the state flagship, or is there a school I’m forgetting? “kid is still awaiting Univ. of S. Carolina. Not good enough grades to go to state flagship”

  49. S&M – Although hostess gifts are not nearly as customary here as in other regions, I can say unequivocally that small decorative stuff usually goes into the regifting pile as soon as the giver leaves, sometimes even if it a unique handmade or exotic item. I would suggest some sort of gourmet consumable. Fancy nuts or cheese, maybe. I don’t know what your airport is like, but coming from New England I might buy a maple syrup/pancake mix gift box in the Boston airport on the other side of security – no issues with liquids then.

  50. SM – my state flagship is Chapel Hill. I was referring to that in relation to the good grades to get in.

  51. Meme, thank you. I love that idea! Now I “just” have to figure out how to put “Florida” and “gourmet” together in a sentence. Maybe I can find someone who makes nice preserves or from Fla oranges or something.

  52. “And you know what, Louise? If the kids are pleasant and modestly attractive and reasonably hard-working, they’ll do just fine.”

    As a very wise person told us, “it’s more important to me nice than to be smart.”

Comments are closed.