Dec 042013

Unless you are the grouchiest Grinch, your mailbox may be stuffed with cards, pictures and holiday letters over the next few weeks.

Call me old-fashioned but I still do the whole  Christmas letter business. Starting in October, I carefully select cards – Christian cards for friends who share my faith and cards for those who celebrate the Festival of Lights or nothing at all. I choose stamps that reflect the card’s message, and then I write one of those horribly obnoxious Christmas letters — complete with well-selected pictures.

Perhaps you roll your eyes and toss my letter in the trash. I hope not. I come from a long line of women who liked notes, cards, and pictures in the mail. My grandmother LeNore Enz wrote something annually called the “Enz-o-Gram.”

In her 1967 version, she refers to the ten-year-old me as a “sweet and loving child who is a good reader and student.”  She told about my singing in the children’s choir at the 450th anniversary celebration of the Protestant Reformation at the Fort Wayne Memorial Coliseum. I remember singing in the choir; I don’t remember being particularly sweet and loving.

My grandmother’s letter has that certain air of hyperbole of many holiday letters. While her letter is not particularly braggadocio, it’s also not entirely truthful and may slightly stretch the truth by not offering the full picture. Our family then, as our family now, is far from perfect.

This way of handling information is known as the sin of omission.

For many years, I wrote something called “The Newburgher” (a nod to “Talk of the Town” in “The New Yorker.”) Long on words and short on pictures, I realized it was a snooze to everyone but me. Even my husband wouldn’t read it. I’ve considerably shortened the letter and added several pictures.

Like my grandmother, I am also guilty of the sin of omission. But who wants to read a holiday letter about the bad stuff? And everybody has the bad stuff.

For example, our 2013 letter highlights a once-in-a-lifetime trip that five family members took to Scotland and Ireland. We had a wonderful time and saw many interesting sites. With five aging bladders in our family, we also saw every bathroom, john, potty, outhouse, privy, loo, washroom and truck stop lounge in Scotland and Ireland.

For my money, I preferred the antiseptically clean bathrooms at the Giant’s Causeway Visitors Center in Ulster, Northern Ireland, to the tiny bathroom at Edinburgh Castle where you descended a  fourteenth century stone stairwell.

I included a photograph of our son in this year’s letter. He completed an internship at the House of Representatives. It’s a nice picture of him standing in front of the door of the office. Did I have a better picture? Yes, there is a photo of him outside the White House attending a Congressional event. His dress shirt is buttoned at the top, he has on no tie, and one jet black hair clump stands straight up. He looks exactly like Alfalfa, if the Our Gang Little Rascal stood in front of the White House.

I did not include several wonderful photographs from our spring vacation to Las Vegas, because then I would have been unable to include photos from the Big Trip. Why? Because the reader would then note my weight gain. Vanity, thy name is Raven Lunatic.

Every year, I say this will be the last time I do this. When I add up the cost of cards, stamps, and the time involved, it’s too much. I swear, I’m finished. Stamps are reportedly going up again. I now have arthritis in both thumbs. My husband signed all of the cards this year, and I did not include personal notes.

Despite the truth-juggling, I still defend the holiday letter. I enjoy getting them, and people tell me they enjoy receiving ours. Okay, so I left a few things out. I’m sure all the letters I receive include the absolute truth and full gamut of family life throughout the year.  I’m sure of it.

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