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The Brutally Honest Holiday Letter I Wish I Could Send

Photograph by Twenty20

Well, the season of the holiday card is finally upon us. When I was a kid, we’d get a few actual Christmas cards (you know, the kind that opened) in the mail. These usually had a Norman Rockwell style drawing of people ice skating or a partridge in a pear tree on the front and a simple generic message inside. People traditionally signed the cards with something like, “Love, the Miller Family." It was lovely.

When the photo card first gained popularity, life seemed to simplify for a few years. No one needed to so much as lift a pen to sign a "Merry Christmas" or a name. Most people snapped a quick picture of their family and typed a short greeting on the front and called it a day.

But these days, thanks to Pinterest and the constant need to outdo one another, my mailbox is inundated with elaborately posed photo cards taken by professional photographers of various groupings of the family unit. The cards, printed on heavy 120-pound cardstock paper with rounded corners, are a work of digital art. Tucked inside that gold-lined envelope is what is known as the Holiday Letter.

They tell of glorious family vacations to tropical locations, boast of their near perfect marriages and, of course, include the humble brag of all of their extremely gifted children on traveling sports teams and honor rolls. As I gobble up each word of these yearly updates, I feel an odd combination of annoyance, jealousy and complete inadequacy in comparing my life to the picture perfect one described in each letter. I can’t help but wonder what these letters would sound like if people cut the crap and told it like it is.

What would happen if I sent out a brutally honest Christmas card?

Dear Friends and Family,

This year, we welcomed the newest addition to our family, Tess. She just turned 9 months and is so adorable that we still love her even though she never sleeps. She is a bundle of constant screams and does this cute thing where she will only let me hold her all the live long day. Most of her clothes have poop stains and she ate a Band-Aid last week. It passed just a day later, though, so all is well.

Theo is 7 and enjoying first grade, where he regularly shares fun tidbits about our family like the fact that "we don't buy juice, just milk and beer and wine for Mommy." He's also recently taken to making up shockingly unfunny knock-knock jokes that don't make any sense. He has participated in six sports and activities this year because he is full of energy yet surprisingly uncoordinated.

We are looking forward to a new year full of blessings, boring events and the occasional catastrophe, and we pray that your lives are not quite as grand as your holiday letter portrayed them to be.

Charlie, currently the least enjoyable of our children, is in middle school and has discovered hair under his arms. He also has a weird odor seeping from his room that no amount of Febreeze seems to remedy. This year, he joined band and enjoyed playing the trombone while we watch TV. Mostly he likes to answer nearly every question asked of him with “I don’t know” and saying, “This sucks!” randomly throughout the day.

Jason still pays $59.99 a month for a gym membership he last used in 2015 and is planning on hanging the shelf I bought last July sometime next year. His pastimes are golfing and bragging about that one time he emptied the dishwasher.

We celebrated 13 years of marriage in May, which we spent double-teaming a wrestling tournament and a baseball game on a rain delay. We finished off our day at Chuck E. Cheese. (Did you know they now serve beer?)

We mostly stayed close to home this year because we dropped $2,000 on Charlie’s braces and then there was that freak leg wrestling accident that took out our living room window. Our only getaway was to my in-laws', where my children became more entitled thanks to the constant stream of food and toys that were thrown at them while I got my nails done by myself.

As for me, I’m nearly recovered from birthing a 10-pound baby and have become socially awkward thanks to spending so much time with people under the age of 12. I consider going to the dentist “free time” because it is literally the only time I am alone and enjoy making awkward conversation with the checkout clerk at Target.

Lastly, our Bruce is closing in on 70 (in dog years) and still thinks he’s a lap pup. His main pastimes are occasionally infesting our house with fleas and letting out slow farts in crowded rooms.

We are looking forward to a new year full of blessings, boring events and the occasional catastrophe, and we pray that your lives are not quite as grand as your holiday letter portrayed them to be.


The Johnson Family.

Can I get an amen?