Christmas letters have been accumulating, along with the bills, in the glittery new mailbox at the end of the road. This fall, I had to replace the box for the third time in 17 years. This time, the vandals had dismembered the mailbox and torn down the post, so it's all new, from the ground up. But, I've veered off the road. Obviously, my mailbox issues are not the point. The point is these letters. You probably get some. Of course you do. And doesn't your mind reel, as mine does, when you read one?
You may remember that 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. This year, Janie's back, and once again life seems to have had its manic way with her and her family. I always suspect there is more going on in her family than meets the eye, because in addition to Janie's report, we've begun to get competing letters each year from Devon, a girl now out of her teens. Who are these people? we ask ourselves. But their lives are as arresting as a traffic accident, and maybe you'll be interested, as we are.
In the letter we got just the other day, Janie writes:
Holiday wishes to you all, fellow boomers. Time has marched on, hasn't it? But, you know, I am not a complainer, so I'm not going to talk about my aches and pains, which I'm sure will sound familiar to each and every one of you. My medical problems are mine, not yours. I will just mention that I gave Botox a try. Yikes! I know, you're shocked, and the truth is I never thought I'd do it, but after Chet had that thing with little Cha-cha, the nanny, I don't know, the stress was beginning to show. On me, not on Chet, that's for sure. And I thought, why not, it's about time I did something for little old me. So, I've had three rounds of injections, and everyone thinks I look a lot younger. Plus, of course, I dropped a few extra pounds, which didn't hurt. I don't get so emotional any more over, well, nothing, the way I use to, or if I do get a little unstrung, it doesn't show, so the girls say I'm much saner than before.
As for Chet, who knows what he thinks? He never talks. Not to me, anyway. When he saw the bills for the Botox treatments, he had a stroke (just kidding) but that became an occasion to work on some of our issues. We actually communicated for a change, although the counselor thought we needed to continue our sessions, but Chet said no way. Anyhow, it turned out it wasn't the cost of the treatments that got him going, it was his guilt over what happened. The counselor didn't say so, but I could tell by her expression that that was what she thought. I know it's a tad post-post-modern to say this, but he deserves a little guilt, doesn't he? After all, the girl was 16.
Now, I know you don't want to hear about Chet and me, but I just have to say that what also came out in the counseling was that Chet wants us to adopt his child with Charlotte (ugh) but he's afraid to talk about it. I think he should be. The counselor said that I was remarkably composed when he came out with this ghastly idea, and I suppose I was, but really it was the Botox not talking.
Enough about my disappointments. I know there are children dying in Darfurian villages, and no one is doing anything about it, especially not our esteemed President Bozo. Their problems are bigger than mine, certainly, but I do have to say, being the parent of a 19-year-old girl is no picnic. Remember all those photographs Devon took when we were on safari a few years ago in Kenya, when Chet's mother, God rest her insufferable soul, ran afoul of that pride of lions, and Chet blamed it all on me? I e-mailed some of them to you, I think. And they were terrific, and Devon went off on a photography career, which was great except that it was built on those horrifying pictures of Chet's mother's death. Well, Devon has remained in Africa, still with the German backpacker, who's still a backpacker though he's almost 40. She photographs primitive agricultural fertility customs, and he works as her stylist. I have no idea where they sell these images. Some underground market, I suppose. (I'm not going to enclose any of them, don't worry.) She has invited Chet and me to join her and Ulf in their Zimbabwean hut for Christmas, but I think the tight quarters might be trying.
[In her letter, Devon said don't believe a word her mother wrote, if she wrote. She included a photograph of a tiny, naked tribesman practicing what may have been some sort of tribal planting ritual. At least, that's what we hope it is. DAC]
It has been just incredible to receive all your truly beautiful Christmas greetings this season. Each one of your cards and letters has lifted my spirits just when they need lifting. I love the pride you have in those awesome kids of yours and your excitement about what's been going on in your little lives. It has been just fabulous to read about.
Quickly now, Dale lives in Tonga with the daughter of that big wheel yacht owner. Dale always lands on her feet, so I'm not worrying about her. Besides, her partner is pretty well fixed with a trust fund set up by her father. Dale doesn't communicate with us much. Donald's meteoric academic career has encountered some turbulence, I'm afraid, so he's taking a year off to reconsider. College will just have to wait. He's off to India for the year, where he plans a spiritual renewal and to learn to play the sitar. This whole business of the Iraq war has just weighed on poor Donald, who was more inward and sensitive than we thought. After Turner left junior college to concentrate on his poetry writing, he had some poetry reading gigs at coffee houses here and there, but although the reception was unbelievable, his career as a poet hasn't really taken off. He has had more success as performance artist, accompanying his poetry recitals with this body painting routine he does. For a long time, I resisted seeing him, but a month ago I went to a performance. (Chet was in England visiting Charlotte, the tramp, and their child.) I must say the audience, almost entirely male and extremely cosmopolitan, was wildly enthusiastic. I'm sure it wasn't designed with a mother in mind.
That'll do it for this year. Wish me Merry Christmas, and I'll do the same for you. It's a time for reconnecting with friends and loved ones (although that apparently escapes Chet and now Devon) and this letter just absolutely makes me feel as though we are soul mates again, all of us. Don't you feel that way?
Love, Merry Xmas, and write soon,