Saturday, February 6, 2010
This is My Holiday Letter for 2009
Every year for the past several, I’ve sent out a picture of my family or my kids along with a “Holiday Letter” that usually focuses on a few memorable moments of the year – whatever moments happen to pop into my head when I sit down to write. It occurs to me in October that I should start thinking about writing such a letter. Then November and December come and go in a blur, and my letter gets written sometime in January and sent out as a New Year’s Greeting.
Not this year. I sat down a few times to write and each time I did, I thought, Oh I already wrote about that in the blog.
In truth, most of the people who would receive the letter read the blog. Except one.
My first boyfriend’s mother is an avid reader of my holiday letters. I haven’t seen her for at least 30 years, but we’ve exchanged holiday cards each of those years and she always writes back telling me how much she loves receiving them and maybe one or two other gushy things.
Doris and I hit it off almost immediately back in 1977. She hadn’t had any girls, and I was one, so right there we were a match made in heaven. Her son was eccentric and she took it in graceful stride. He came up with one after another wacky idea and she was always respectful and supportive. One such idea was that he and I would go to a Halloween costume party as a Wizard and a Frog. Doris, an accomplished seamstress, offered to outfit us. A day or two before the party, I came over to try on the costume. My boyfriend brought me to a pile of expertly crafted felt and handed me a green garment off the top.
“What’s this?” I said.
“That’s your costume.”
“Of course it’s green,” he said. “You’re a frog.”
“I'm not the frog!” I said, tears welling. “I’m the Wizard!”
I can’t remember if Doris walked in at that time, or if she discovered later that I was positively crestfallen to be the frog. I wanted to be magical and powerful in a long, flowing purple cape. I had no interest in being the squat, warty frog.
My boyfriend wouldn’t relent and it was too late to do anything about it even if he had. I bought some green tights and scored some SCUBA fins and I flip-flopped up a long gravel driveway to a party where all my friends were dressed as sexy bunnies or sexy punk rockers.
That Halloween came and went, but for years every time my birthday came around, friends would present me with frogs. Ceramic frogs, stuffed frogs, frogs made of blown glass. Even my own mother made me a needlepoint pillow: “Before you meet your handsome prince you have to kiss a lot of toads.”
From that point on, I hated frogs. Of course I never blamed Doris for the mix-up. She had only followed her son’s instruction. And I’ve also learned firsthand, when you spend your adulthood as the mother of boys, it’s often not apparent how tenderly you have to handle a little girl’s dreams.
In the middle of last month, Doris called me. She hadn’t received a card from me and she worried that something was wrong. I told her I’d been busy and I hadn’t gotten to cards this year, but that her call inspired me to get to that holiday letter I’d been meaning to write.
This is my holiday letter for 2009. I know it’s not what anyone was expecting. But I feel like this is really all I have to say this year: Thank you to all the people in my life who have encouraged me to tell stories, then and now, and for not holding it against me when I sometimes turn into an ungrateful girlfrog. It’s a huge gift you’ve bestowed; one that’s changed my life.
Happy Belated New Year.