I haven’t sent out a Christmas Newsletter in years.
I used to. I tried to make them humorous and people told me that I sometimes succeeded.
I began by trying to put a comedic slant on real-life incidents. Here’s a snippet from 1991’s letter:
Another Damned Christmas Letter
So there we were in the paper store, buying paper, and Julie turns to me and says, “Do you have our Christmas letter written yet?” My face turned white, a chill crawled up my spine, my stomach did flip-flops, and I knew that I was either in love for the first time or about to write another one of those chipper little letters detailing the past year of Life Among the Strnads. So here it is.
The New Year began for us with the sound of a nearby gunshot, the shattering of glass, and the slug from a .38 lodging itself in the wall of our Hollywood apartment. We decided it was time to move to a better neighborhood, which we did, buying a teeny-tiny house a couple of miles from the ocean. I don’t know that we’re any less likely to be shot at here, but at least we’ll be shot at by a better class of psychotic.
Not really. We were, in truth, shot at, but it wasn’t on January 1st and we slept right through it. But I’m trying desperately to be entertaining so cut me some slack, okay?
The next year I didn’t get the Christmas Letter out until February. This became something of a tradition in itself.
By 1994, I was getting desperate. Here’s a bit from that year’s letter:
“I don’t know, Julie. I may not be up to writing a Christmas letter this year. This darn cold. I could wait until I feel better, but postage goes up three cents after January 1st.”
“Then skip it. Nobody likes Christmas form letters anyway.”
“Wait! I have an idea. Look at this….”
Merry Christmas, everybody! To personalize your Christmas letter this year, I’ve cross-referenced all the data in my computer files to automatically create a letter Just For You! (My only job is to put each letter in the right envelope, but I guess I can handle that!)
Dear Darryl and Estelle,
How are you and the kids, Frank, Dweezil, Satchmo, Madonna, and little Snoop Doggy Dogg? We hope everything is fine in Cob Corners NE 68818….
“Who’s Darryl and Estelle?”
“That’s the joke. Everybody gets the same letter, see? Like I put it in the wrong envelope. It’s really pretty funny if you think about it.”
“Uh-huh. How much cold medication have you taken today?”
“Oo, good angle. I’ll write a normal letter but put in all the coughing and wheezing and snorting and….”
“Just tell them about our year.”
“But it was a crappy year.”
We’ve had a GREAT 1994!
That letter went on for about four pages, somehow. Maybe it was the cold meds.
I actually got the Christmas Letter out at Christmas time for two years, but by 1996 the enthusiasm was again waning. Here’s that letter in its entirety, mailed a month late:
Behold the return of a tradition! We’re sending out Christmas letters in January again. We were radically punctual there for a year or two, but we’re back in the groove now.
This past year we got out of bed 366 times, diddled around for about sixteen hours, and then went back to bed again. So much for the headlines, on with the news.
Christmas was special this year since both Jan and Julie contracted the flu. Julie got sick first and Jan got sick later, so we each had a turn at being strong while the other person pleaded for Jack Kevorkian’s phone number. When our love was new, we spent a lot of time in bed writhing and moaning, but we remember it being quite a bit more fun than this was. Even the dog got sick, judging by the “present” she left us on the kitchen floor on Christmas morning. We had to cancel our planned trip to the Pacific Northwest so Tommy and Corie had to get pummeled by Mother Nature without us.
To tell you the truth, this whole Christmas thing is getting pretty old. Jan’s business is seasonal and the end of the year always finds us digging in the back yard for pennies the previous owners’ kids might have buried. We’re surprised that anyone gives us any Christmas gifts at all considering the sorry junk we foist off on them every year. Still, they always send a note thanking us for the emergency bathroom keys Jan makes out of bits of wire or praising Julie’s ability to create such lovely Christmas wreaths from pipe cleaners and cigarette stubs.
This is a pretty miserable excuse for a Christmas Letter, but then, that’s a tradition with us, too. We figure that, if you really cared about us, you’d send cookies. If you didn’t send cookies… well, see what you get? If you sent cookies but got this stupid letter anyway, please accept our apologies. You deserve better.
Still wishing you and yours all the best in the coming year, we remain,
[Jan and Julie]
The next year, I started making things up, such as this quote inspired by the popular Xena, Warrior Princess TV show:
The year began with Julie discovering that she was an ancient warrior princess, the half-mortal offspring of a philandering god. This revelation set off a quest for her destiny that led her across the Ocean of Peculiarities, through the Babbling Mountains, and into the Land of the Scantily-Clad where she learned to do backflips from horseback, launching herself into the air by flexing her buttocks.
I was writing cartoons at the time, and I wrote this song about it, sung to the tune of Sixteen Tons:
Born Saturday mornin’ with the TV so bright,
Picked up a pencil and I started to write.
I wrote sixteen ‘toons of mayhem and mirth
And my mama tol’ me, “For this I gave birth?”
You write sixteen ‘toons and what do you get?
Another year older and deeper in debt.
Saint Peter don’t call me ’cause I got no transportation,
I owe my soul to the PNC Mortgage Corporation.
If you see me comin’ better cover your cojones
‘Cause nothin’ is sacred to me and my cronies.
When it comes to money, I ain’t got handfuls,
But what do you expect when you make your living writing stories about steamrollers, firecrackers and plummeting anvils?
(repeat chorus until it actually starts sounding funny)
Obviously, I was scraping the bottom of my barrel of ideas.
In 1998 I sent out a fake newsletter from “Carl and Lurlene Sutch.” There was no indication that it came from Julie and me. Here’s how it went:
Carl and Lurlene Sutch
“On the road in the U. S. of A.”
Season’s Greetings! As you can see from our “address” up there it’s been a year of changes for me and Carl.
The year started with a “bang” down at the garage. Carl was talking politics with Jim Wilkins. You know how Jim likes to needle people a little bit and, well, he got Carl going on the subject of Monica and Carl just completely forgot about the nozzle in his hand pumping air into the tire on Jim’s Peterbilt. The next thing Carl knew the world went “boom!” and he was flying bass-ackwards through the air on his way to early retirement.
Carl wasn’t hurt bad but while he was sitting at home elevating his ankle he got to thinking about things and you know how hazardous that can be. We all remember the “automatic lawn mower” incident.
So, the long and short of it is that Carl decided that, A) with the passing of both Roy Rogers and Gene Autry in the same year there was an opening for a singing cowboy, and B) he was the man for the job.
But first he had to get the 10-W-40 out of his pores and relieve himself in streams. It didn’t make any real sense to me but you know how Carl talks sometimes, where the words sound right but they don’t mean anything to anybody but Carl.
Anyway we sold those acres Carl had been holding onto waiting for the Great Nebraska Land Boom and bought us a silver Airstream, used but in good shape. I don’t have room to tell you all the places we’ve been to but here’s a short list: Kansas (like Nebraska), Oklahoma (oil!), Texas (big!), New Mexico (turquoise), Nevada (Lost Wages), Yellowstone (geysers), S. Dakota (Mt. Rushmore–inspiring!), etc. etc.!
Naturally we’ll be dropping in on a few of you over the holidays, I can’t say when exactly. Just don’t be surprised if a travel trailer pulls up at your house sometime soon, although it might already be there when you wake up in the morning as Carl would rather drive at night.
Holiday Wishes and “Happy Trails” from your “old” friends,
[Carl and Lurlene Sutch]
That’s the last Christmas Newsletter I have on file. There may have been another one or two, but I’m sure they’re just as well forgotten as life got pretty desperate after the collapse of local (L.A.) media production in the year 2000.
Now that I’m gainfully employed and Julie is gainfully semi-retired, I’m looking ahead to the December holidays and thinking maybe it’s time to bring back the Christmas Letter. Then again, given the lack of an outcry when I stopped… a silence so profound you could have heard a butterfly flap its wings in the next room… I don’t know that it’s worth the bother. To everything there is a season, so to speak.