Thursday, December 18, 2014

Merry Christmas, whoever you are.

     This is the season when Christmas cards flow in, often containing the square of folded paper that is the traditional Christmas form letter, detailing the doings of the card-sending family. It's amazing that such letters have survived into the Facebook era, which is basically one continual year-long Christmas letter.  Our family never sent such letters ourselves — too disorganized, too self-aware, too concerned about foisting the minutia of our lives upon uninterested others — but one Christmas I did decide to take a whack at what our letter might be like, if we wrote one, which we don't.

Dear Close Friend:

     Where has the year gone? Can it already be mid-December and time for my chatty-yet-impersonal, guarded-yet-revealing, folded-up-and-tucked-into-a-pre-printed, computer-addressed, won't-offend-anybody-of-any-faith "holiday" card? Yes, indeed it is.    
     So a great, big Steinberg family "hello" to you and your household, from me and my household and of course our cats here on Pine Grove Avenue.
     And what a "year" it has been! We were all shaken by the incident last March, but have adjusted ourselves very well to our new manner of living and will get by best we can.
     But enough of vaguely worded personal calamity. On to the thinly disguised bragging! Enclosed are photos, scanned through our color printer and cut out (actual photographs are so expensive, particularly when you send them to 160 close friends) from our trips to Tiki, Questamel, Rustania, Ishmaelia and Outer Borgundi. As you can see, we had a lot of fun! And went to many great places!! Places that you could never dream of going!!! Ever!!!!
     Before I forget, some news about people you've never met, don't know and couldn't care less about: Michael is fine; Clara learned to play the flute and hopes someday to do it well; Aunt Prang is recuperating since her accident; Tad and Mindy and Wendell and Steve also send their regards, as do Hap, Molly, The Big W, Po-Po and Mr. Hester.
     On the family front, everyone is fine in the Steinberg
household. My wife has taken up artwork, covering page after page with distinctive, tiny, intricate drawings made up of circles and squares and death's heads. I'm just so proud of her.
     Our "boys" are of course a year older and cuter than ever. Little Krandel turned 2 last June and has mastered the art of climbing to very high places, closing his eyes and pitching blindly forward, counting on good old "Daddy" to drop whatever he's doing and lunge across the room to catch him. What a little dickens! I haven't missed yet, though I once had to drop a tray of heirloom glassware and leap over an ottoman to grab him six inches from the hardwood floor.
     His brother, Rosensweig, is 4 but can already punch his dad hard enough to leave him doubled over, eyes tearing and gasping for breath. I call him "My Little Jack Dempsey," and he has the same fierce vigor and sense of adventure as the young Manassas Mauler.
     The cats, whose photo I am enclosing, dressed as Santa and Mrs. Claus, are as affectionate as ever. It seems the wife or I can't sit down, particularly when lightly dressed or holding a cup of hot coffee, without having one or both leap into our laps and dig their needle-like claws into us. We just love them, even when they scamper yowling across our faces at 5 a.m.
     Work is, as always, fun and stimulating, and I truly feel, as my boss is constantly reminding me, "lucky to have a job at all."
     And that's about it. I hope you don't mind the impersonality of a form letter, but I'm so very busy, doing so many important things, and have such a vast number of dear, close, personal friends such as yourself, well, I know that you understand. Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, or whatever it is you celebrate, whoever you are. I love you and miss you and would be thinking of you, if only I had the time.
                                                Yours in holiday cheer,
                                                The Steinbergs

           —Originally published in the Sun-Times, Dec. 14, 1999


  1. Perfect - right down to the inevitable slip from "we" to "I."


  2. My sister-in-law has been sending them the last few years. Yes, lots of "bragging" about everything from cruises to how wonderful their lives all are. (I don't think they read this blog, so I should be safe). I scan them quickly, then toss them. Not that I'm not "happy for them"... :)

  3. Shouldn't it be "minutiae"? : )

  4. Speaking of your wife's artwork, a FB Friend sends such examples from Carl Gombert. Check him out: really great "tiny, intricate drawings made up of circles and squares and death's heads."

  5. this is terrific.....ha, facebook is uninterrupted xmas letters--good one.

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  7. I have a rather mentally unstable first cousin whose wife is now a retired college professor. When Bush 43 became POTUS, she went into a tizzy and engaged in a long political diatribe, which went out as a postscript to her rambling, babbling Christmas newsletter. It's easy to imagine the holiday hissy-fits she has likely sent out over the last three or four years.

    But I have not read a single word that she's written. Although she and my cousin live just two hours away, my wife and I have not seen them, or even communicated with them, in almost twenty years. It is almost a certainty that we never will again. Her histrionic "Bush rant" letter arrived unexpectedly out of the blue, and it received a few derisive snorts before we cast it aside, just as we did with her.


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