Not that long ago I was cleaning out a file drawer that hadn’t seen daylight in years. I found a treasure trove of paper, including our Christmas letters from the nineties. Better yet, there were letters from our friends with their Christmas news. What a joy to read through some of those old letters, partially renewing friendships that have long since faded.
When we first got a computer in the house, in the early eighties, one of the first tasks I gave the machine was an address book application, primarily to keep track of our Christmas card list. We sent and received dozens and dozens of cards each year. We spent hours fretting over what to put into the letter, much as I do today writing these blog entries.
Differences in Christmas letter style were obvious then, and stark today. Far too many were the stereotypical good news missives. Some letters were all about how their award-winning son was traveling through Europe this semester, with news of their intelligent daughter giving a concert for the fund-raising gala. Reading them now gives me a chuckle, they apparently felt the need to upgrade their status. Other letters were replete with whining. Daddy had a stroke, daughter broke her arm, grandma had surgery. They needed sympathy more than the average Joe, maybe more than we had to share.
My job was writing the Christmas letters, with the direction that I neither brag nor complain. As Joe Friday used to say: “Just the facts, ma’am.” It was a tough balance, but we had both joys and challenges to fill our lives, just like today, and just like the families who highlighted the good news or wallowed in their sorrows.
The attached letter is from 1995, just twenty years ago. On one hand, I am shocked at the amount of change in our lives since then; although I shouldn’t be, it’s been twenty years, for God’s sake! You be the judge on how well I did avoiding the stereotype good and sad versions of Christmas letters.