I am not a Yet yet.
At least not a fully evolved Yeti.
I am a work in progress.
I am evolving.
It all started in 1989.
With a Christmas letter I received.
I was sitting on the sofa, nursing a snotty nosed, stuffed up, miserable little boy, while building a Lego castle with an I-refuse-to-be-ignored older brother. It was well after noon. We were all still in our pajamas, surrounded by snowy kleenex drifts, unable to see out the windows as they were steamed up from the humidifier pumping in the corner, and we all smelled of Vick's-Vapo-Rub. In an act of desperation, I sent my son to the mailbox as a diversionary tactic. It was to be the undoing of my last jangling nerve. I was ripe for a fight.
The letter stuck its nasty foot out from under the pile of bills and advertising fliers and tripped me up. I opened it. Twenty seconds later the Yard Yeti Revolution began.
The Christmas letter was from a college friend. The mother of three, with a full time job, and a jolly ho-ho-ho list of outside activities she regaled with such offhand delight, I felt my blood begin to boil. The coach of her daughter's synchronized swim team, which placed second in state finals. Her own by-line and column in the local paper. And finally, the spark that lit the fire, started the blaze, ignited the inferno...in her SPARE time, taking flying lessons to become a full fledged pilot. An Ace.
I saw red. And green. And my own pitiful Christmas letter still sitting on the kitchen table, covered in peanut butter and jelly. The Joker.
I waited. I fumed. I steamed. Stomped and pouted and rode the red rage wagon around the house until midnight. Everyone in bed, asleep, my major and only accomplishment of the day, I sat down, pen in one hand, glass of wine in the other and roared to life.
"Personally, I don't want to hear that you finished all your holiday shopping during the Labor Day Sales...managed to buy everything for no more than 65% off...have put up your tree, which you bought at an ecologically controlled shelter for foster fir trees...use only recyclable tinsel...that your children made all their presents while learning to speed read in German...and that your condo in the Alps has tripled in value."
"But that certainly doesn't mean that I cannot tell you that our children are both in Pre-Med at Yale, or that the old man and I are driving matching Lamborghinis, or that I have lost 96 pounds on a liquid bran and corn dog diet, or that the most annoying part of my day is snagging my nine carat diamond on my cashmere sweaters...and if you want to believe any or all of the above I suggest you stop reading right here."
The following Christmas, I actually found myself eager to put pen to page. Gleeful. A bit of holiday madness. A chance to let loose in flying keystrokes the wonder and folly of our household. To share stories. Silly, comical misadventures and rollicking rantings about parenting, teenagers, travel disasters, and my own struggles with growing up and growing older.
One by one the cards landed in the mailbox. Most were printed on pretty paper, embellished with current photos...but at the very end...in ink...a postscript.
It wouldn't be Christmas without your letter.
We look forward to hearing your adventures with great glee,
Don't forget us.
You are the smile under our tree.
Year by year I built quite a following...but truth be told...I was a follower as well. Stories. We were all busy telling stories of our lives, our dreams, our hopes, our disappointments, our successes and failures, our wins and sadly, our losses. Exactly what friends and families are for, telling tales at Christmas. Whether down the block, or across the miles, a quiet moment to sit and read, coffee cup in hand, and catch up.
Just like the Yard Yeti Motto: "Tick tock goes the clock. Time won't stand still, but we can. Let's catch up."
One of the letters stands out as not only a personal favorite, but one that still makes me smile. Here goes...a blast from the past...1996.
Let me begin this year's letter with a brief little tale called (SOB!)...the Christmas Tree.
...EXACTLY 18 years ago, Pop and I found a tiny farm in a tiny corner of our tiny town. There was a kindly farmer and his wife who let us city people cut down our own tree and haul it home for the holiday. The first year, we were only two. Then came our first child. The farmer and his wife would cuddle the baby, and we would run to cut down the tree. Then there were four. Son #2, who ran and ran around the tiny farm hugging every tree and scaring them all to death. Each year the ritual continued. The boys grew and carried the saw...and punched each other in the arm...and smiled crookedly at the camera...while Dad lay on his back in the mud sawing down the tree. Finally the little town grew and BIG TREE FARMS with HORSES and HOT CHOCOLATE and WAGONS and GIFT BARNS sprung up out of the earth. Many families left the little farm to find happiness elsewhere...but OUR family stayed true.
Dec. 19th, 1996 came due, we bundled up and rode across what was now suburbia and screeched to a halt. The little farm gate was bolted shut. Weeds grew around the trees left behind. A small sign read "NO TRESPASSING". We all stood in the cold, looked at each other and said not a word. It was as though someone had died. Our eyes filled with tears. We drove to a nearby Nursery and wandered Zombielike for over an hour looking for a tree. Men in wagons and power saws cruised by...but we shouted "No!"
As I wrote the check, I softly inquired about the little farm and its little family. For all we knew, tragedy had surely struck. And after 18 YEARS OF FAITHFULNESS...we were told, "THEY SOLD THE LAND TO THE NEW TARGET STORE!!!!!!!!!!!! We gathered up our tree, put it up and in three days our family room was covered with ten thousand midges. (It's my story and I can exaggerate if I want). You know...MIDGES...little Christmas GNATS...SANTA GETS THEM FROM THE REINDEER!!!
...the moral of this story...
Don't Count Your Midges Until They're Hatched..
Wherever you are on your Advent calendar, flip up the little window and you will find me there humming Christmas tunes, jingling Christmas bells, and reminding you that this is the season and you do have a reason to...
...send a Christmas letter...
...to each other...
Make it a gift. To your self. To the ones you love.
In your own handwriting.
Tuck in family photos.
In your own words, from your own heart,
find a way to cherish and treasure...
Tie it up with a bow.
Then sign it.
And send it.
I promise that this little gift you send out, will return to you, in ways you cannot begin to imagine.
Chapter 16 | Chapter 18