More from Janie
Every fourth or fifth Christmas card includes a letter this year. My heart sinks. What's wrong with a simple Merry Christmas, or Happy Holidays, or even, How you doing? You probably get some of these Christmas letters. And, maybe you get one from someone like Janie.
A few years ago I reproduced in this space the text of a Christmas letter we got from Janie, who is apparently an old school friend though we can't place her. Masquerading as a Christmas wish, her annual family report is a paragon of the genre. She always has something to say about her husband, Chet, and their children, Donald, Devon, Dale, and Turner. But this year, Janie's life seems to have taken an unexpected twist, and maybe things are on the upswing. Time will tell, I suppose. We also get a competing letter from daughter Devon, a girl who is now 20. It's Janie and the anti-Janie. I can't figure out who these people are, but their lives are as arresting as an automobile crash. For 2005, Janie writes:
Holiday wishes to you all, though to speak truthfully, while I'm optimistic, I'm not so merry as I ought to be. Not to complain, I know my medical problems are not your concern, and the whole thing with Chet is a tragedy, but an old one now, and maybe we've come to a fork in the road. Never mind, it's Christmas, and I've resolved to be cheery, but being the parent of a 20-year-old girl has, forgive me, been wearing thin. Remember all those photographs Devon took when we were on safari in Kenya, when Chet's mother, God rest her insufferable soul, had the unfortunate, and actually deadly, incident with the lion? I e-mailed some of them to you, I think. They were terrific images (that's what Devon calls them). Anyway, Devon is a photographer these days, working in London. I say working, but I don't mean in the traditional sense, you know, where you have a boss and you get paid. I mean that she's working in the sense of being out all night photographing the toilet habits of the dance club crowd. Don't ask me. She says she's building a portfolio. I think she's building her immune system. Anyhow, it was a niche no one else had thought of, she explains, and it's all hers. Hooray, I suppose.
I don't mean to put her down. Remember, I didn't put up a big fuss when Devon sold those gruesome pictures of mother, post-lion, to that Florida tabloid. To all of you who saw them, I totally apologize. But, really, what can you do with someone so headstrong.
Ulf, the German backpacker Devon met at the moveon.org event, and Devon are no more. She says she got tired of photographing primitive fertility customs, which was all that interested him. He's gone native with a fashion designer in Paris, who sells a line of thatched undergarments that give off a musky aroma.
[In her letter, which arrived at Thanksgiving, Devon told us not to believe a word her mother wrote, if she wrote, and she included, as her trademark, a photograph of a tiny, naked tribesman urinating toward the camera, in what looked to me like a planting ritual. Who knows? DAC]
It has been just incredibly wonderful to receive all your truly beautiful Christmas greetings this season. Each one of your cards and letters has been to me a kind of Christmas carol, lifting my spirits just when they needed lifting. But there I go again, and I don't mean to dwell.
A few of you - and I can just feel the pride you have in those awesome kids of yours - have included notes about what's been going on in your little lives, and it has been incredibly fabulous to read about. I am so happy for you all, which makes me all the sadder to have to report that Charlotte, that English girl who looked after the children for a year or two when I was so swamped with building the Chilmark house and then took up with Chet, well, she's come undone. Emotionally, I mean. And, Chet has been calling me to ask advice. Can you believe it? The girl was hardly out of grammar school when she and Chet moved out. I wondered who was the nanny and who was the child. What did he expect? She hasn't got a high school degree, for God's sake.
I know I said that I was incredibly confident that before too many Christmases had passed things would again be as they were, and Charlotte would be back in boarding school or someplace (probably jail) where she belongs. But, I am afraid I was off a bit on that, and it took a great deal longer. Who knows what lies ahead, but now that Charlotte has gone crackers (forgive me), it looks like Chet will move back in. We'll have to figure out a secure placement for Charlotte before we begin to work out our difficulties. Chet says Charlotte could stay with us, but I draw the line.
Quickly now, Dale has become the executive secretary to a media mogul. She always lands on her feet, and a good thing too, after the dot-com bubble burst and that entrepreneur she was writing code for went under. Donald is at college now (I just know you're all jealous, but it's true). Straight A's, just like always, and he's become a kind of entrepreneur himself, with a string of pay per view webcam sites that feature college dorms. He says he may go public before graduation. Turner is a sort of performance artist working in body painting, excrement hurling, and poetry. I haven't been to one of his shows, though he keeps asking. If you see him performing in your town, I hope you'll let me know what you think. Don't spare me, nothing surprises me any more.
That's enough. Wish me merry Christmas, and I'll do the same for you. It's a time for reconnecting with friends and loved ones (to wit, Chet and maybe Devon, though she seems a trifle hostile lately), and this letter just absolutely makes me feel as though we are soul mates again, all of us. Don't you feel that way too?
Love, Merry Xmas, and write soon,