Sunday, November 13, 2011

The "Real" Christmas Letter

Every year about this time of year, I begin to compose, in my mind, a Crane Family Christmas Letter. A general, "Hey this is what's going on in our lives" kinda catch up for those that don't live near, don't visit, and assume that we are living life from vacation to vacation, party to party, and grace to grace.  So in my mind I try and bridge the gap between that imagined reality and my reality.  But the truth just keeps getting in the way.

I wish I could write the "real" Christmas letter where the peek into our lives leaves you with a sense of my day to day and what REALLY goes on behind these closed doors.  Not a horror show, but the real scratch your butt, half pajama wearin', we are-SO-not-perfect - kind of letter.  Why?  I dunno.  Hopefully so we can climb down off of your pedestals and have you say, "HEY LOOK!  They're just like us!"

During the 13 years we've been married there have been rough years, and it never fails that when you are at your lowest ebb that the Christmas cards come in.  They come from those whom you only marginally like, and don't care to vacation with. You can spot the soul crushing Christmas Cards among the bills, notices and fliers because they are so much bigger than the rest.  You kinda use it as a mail platter to carry in the rest of the mail into your hum drum life.

Somewhat out of curiosity, and the realization that you don't have anything else to do, you grab it.  The glittering silver envelopes with embossed paper, embellished stamps and hand written calligraphy making your residence seem akin in importance to The White House.  I get these and I run a dialogue in my mind that can only be considered sarcastic.

"Dear Katrina and Family!"   (why does the wife of my ex-boyfriend insist on keeping me on their card list? I don't think he told her about that one date where a lot of spit was exchanged....).  Well, hooray for you Kristin.  You figured out how to make every form letter look personalized.  Just like the credit card companies and Publisher's Clearinghouse. And the "signature" at the bottom is in the exact same ink as the letter. You're not fooling me!

"Happy Holidays to our friends living near and far..." Oh gosh - please no. Here we go.
"We hope your year was a blessed and delightful one."  OH Shut up.  It has been the year from hell.
"As we ponder the significance of the season, we decided to spend our Holy Day holiday in the Holy Land! It is going to be a Magical Christmas in Bethlehem. We'll be staying in the Inn, and our nanny is so delighted to try out the stables."   Awesome.  Annnnnd I..... hope y'all don't get shot or kidnapped or both.

"After a whirlwind tour of Jerusalem, Mr. Johnson and I will be surprising our 7 children as we usher in a bright 2012 as special guests of the Monte Martre Sailors club to watch the ball drop for the New Year atop the Eiffel Tower!  Oui! PARIE!"

You spelled that wrong idiot. Its Paris.  Even when you're saying it pear-ie.  Why on earth are you allowed to travel to places that you can't even spell correctly?  Too busy having 7 kids and sailing, clearly. Life is SO not fair.

"But right now we are all a flutter! Our 5 girls will be dancing in 'The Nutcracker Ballet with the Chekoslovakian Orchestra and Ballet Troop, with Yale as first alternate for the role of Clara."

Yale.  Seriously? And there's a "z" in Chezech.. Chezk...  There's a "z" in there somewhere!  Idiot. And its a "troupe" not a "troop" like a bunch of scouts.  Still can't spell.  Where is your spell-check woman? Five girls in ballet.  That's a lot of tutus.  And hairspray.  Better keep all of them away from an open flame or they'll all spontaneously combust. *evil giggle*  I don't even know if Czechoslovakia has a decent orchestra.

Reading line for line stops, and then you  start to scan, "boys, in band... electric guitar... blah blah, debate, chess club, Honor Society... perfect perfect, kids memorizing "The Family, A Proclamation to the World," awesome, and she is keeping up with everything by running. A full marathon. Every month. Freaking Awesome. I only run when chased. OH!  Designing a new house with 4 car garage for the new boat.  Of course.  Skip to the end.

I used to lay on the floor after getting these letters and just drift into a full-on depression until some child stepped on me, "MAM! Where's the JUICE?!"
"Your sister drank it all.  We're OUT of juice."
"Why are you on the floor?"
"Mommy's just looking for... something."

Then one day, I lamented this very sentiment to my friend, Melanie Steele, who gave me the perfect solution: Burn 'em!  She said to me, "Just take all of those cards and burn 'em in the trash. It's very soothing and cathartic to watch those glitters go up in smoke!  Just don't do it around the smoke detectors... You'll be letting in subzero air to try and get those smoke detectors to turn off again."

*sob!* Oh soul sister!  You understand!  You understand that when you think of all the wonderful and truthful things you could say about the family this year, you realize that it is not exactly flattering Christmas Card material!  "We went up to Yellowstone and saw a big brown bear sleeping on top of an Elk carcass!"

I mean, how can you put a good spin on the fact that your 3yr old eats boogers and laughs his butt off when you scold him not to do it because it is SO GROSS!?  He may, in fact, be doing it TO gross me out!  Or that one of the kids cut their own hair up to here, and the other had a picture perfect bedroom suite until they flung pulled pork on the fake peau de soie curtains and melted laffy taffy on the light bulb of their reading lamp just to make the neighbor kids laugh?  And even the good news has a rotten side, like the fact that even though you set up a tent for the first time in a decade, you waited too long to take it down and now have a perfect square of dead grass in the back yard! You can't really spin that! 

But everyone else seems to be doing it.  And effortlessly.  If someone asks me one more time if I'd like to contribute my creative genius for projects, and have a super good camera to blog about my amazing kids birthday parties that I was supposed to have planned with antiques, a Cricut machine, a riding saddle and .... TAPE, I think I'm just gonna LOSE IT!  Melting into a puddle of my own mediocre shame, I have had to devise a plan to get me through this year. There is only only one way out.  TO LIE.

"We are having a banner year!"  Maybe we could do a Christmas card theme with banners. Abigail won first place.... for .... ARBOR day for her short story about a TREE.  Benjamin can spell 90, no 900 words PERFECTLY, and Sam and Za play... EDUCATIONAL games together.  Because Dora the Explorer enhances a child's learning of the world around them and... Spanish and ... SWIPER NO SWIPING!!! Ethics!  And then what do I say about me?

Oh man. Truthfully I am at a stage in my life where my car and appliances are just about the most dear and important things in my life - like next to air.  I can not have a vacuum break, or a fridge, or a dishwasher, and heaven forbid it, my washing machine and dryer go out on me.  It would only take 3 days to go from "tidy-ish" to "Hoarders - Buried Alive!" candidate. 

What did I do this year? Well, I've worked my appliances like galley slaves. They run a couple of times a day, every day. Its not like those young married days, or I assume Old Farty days, where you can just go without one if it breaks until you save and/or research to get exactly what you want.

A clink under the bumper makes me break out into a cold sweat, and finding a hammer in the dryer is actually a relief because at least I know how to fix that.  It is a 180 degree difference from what it was like when we first got married.  I didn't need a vacuum.  I think it was actually years before I actually bought a vacuum.  We just borrowed our neighbors vacuum once a week to get the dust bunnies that collected around our apartment since we were both gone all the time.

Now.  Now we vacuum daily, and if someone is coming over, we start to vacuum HOURLY. Instead of sucking up dust bunnies, this powerhouse has to take down legos, cereal, dry wall, play dough, ribbons, yarn, shredded paper, pencil shards, screws shaken from various chairs and chunks of food that the baby could not be coaxed into eating and the children could not be imposed upon to pick up. With a severely skewed ratio of messers to tidiers, it is a marathon of picking up, loading up, cleaning up, and putting up with a lot of crying. When I go to the bank and they offer suckers, I say, "Yes, just please make them all the same color!"

*siiiiiiiiiiigh* And after all the angels are in bed, and my brain tells me that, "ITS NOW OR NEVER!  JUST WRITE IT! WRITE THAT CHRISTMAS LETTER!!!" Suddenly lying about it all seems like such an effort. And I wonder, can I do the OTHER option, and just not send any at all... is it possible to GET cards without sending them?  My brain hurts thinking about it, and now that I need to get that next load of laundry out, I think I will just have to pull a Scarlett O'Hara, "I can't think about that nawh. I'll think about it tomorrah..." But in the meantime, please don't kick me off your Christmas card list just yet.  We're running low on tinder...


Meredith said...

This post MUST be your christmas letter. Every. Single. Word.

Danika said...

I agree with Meredith! It will be everyone's favorite because we can all relate! My friend actually sent out a photo with her kids all disheveled and looking in different directions (like at the end of the photo session when they were burned out). I LOVED it! Or you could just make a compilation of all your Facebook posts....
But I'd really like to know how you got a photo of my den?!? :)

Reggs said...

You could always write about the awesome things you've done: Lot's of homemade dinners, lots of clean bums due to your many changings, an amazing family dinner created in under 30 minutes that fed about 15 people, and lots and lots of meals you sent out to other people. I think THAT is worth bragging about!

Danika said...

You totally read my mind! I've decided to do a snarky Christmas letter that is a little more true to our day to day lives. Good to know my Christmas card will be put to good use!

Danielle Spangler said...

I SO just shared this post on Facebook! Hope you don't mind. It was the best thing I have read in a LONG time. Your humor is up my alley!

Anonymous said...

what a great blog! would you mind if I refer to it and include a link to it on my blog? it's so great! I laughed so hard! thanks...Maggie

Erika said...

Oh my gosh, I have the same feelings about Christmas letters. I get so bugged. I have serious issues with trying to write mine. I like to write just a little and really want to be snarky, but I'm worried half the people wouldn't get it. So then I end up writing a small snippet of what I hope is a little humorous realism. I hope! What I may write this year is, "It's the same as last year. The kids got bigger. We are busier. The year flew by. Merry Christmas. The end."

Erika said...

OH and I laughed so hard. Loved it!

ScotSue said...

What a great original post - I loved it.