I was browsing a funny website recently called Suburban Bliss and I saw a link to the author’s attempts to get a decent Christmas card picture of her children. (See the left margin of her main page).
Christmas cards with beautiful pictures of children dressed in fancy outfits are very popular here. Unfortunately, I have never been able to get my boys to pose for a picture that is remotely acceptable. I only tried one year – the year the twins were born and therefore were not mobile. After that, I decided to ditch the idea of a fantasy portrait of immaculately dressed, well behaved children. Instead, I have chosen a theme each year and surrounded the text with photos that show my children more realistically.
For example, in 2001, I produced the “Glamore Family Year End Report” which read as follows:
I am happy to report that 2001 has been a wonderful year for the Glamores. We have no plans for further expansion of the Company, as we are presently operating at peak capacity. Our Productivity this year was above expectations; we now average 5 gallons of milk and 10 loads of laundry per week. Our Chief Financial Officer, Bill, continues to practice law, and recently added rollerblading to his list of accomplishments. In my role as Chief Operating Officer, I oversaw all domestic operations, which included mothering, carpooling, cooking, cleaning, first aid, and practicing law.
Members of the Board excelled as well. Finn started kindergarten and enjoys karate and music. He heads up our Defense and Entertainment divisions. He turns 6 this month and promises to be a strong member of our team in the future. Drew and Porter turned 3 in August. They can be credited with our drastic decrease in Gross Output this year, as they are now completely potty trained. As a result, we were able to discard a number of diapers, thus reducing our overall Inventory. Medical Expenses were down, as we suffered only 1 set of stitches, 1 dog bite (not by Sherlock), 2 bouts of croup and 1 ambulance ride (with twin patients). I celebrated 1 full year of remission from hepatitis C. Have a Happy 2002! Love, Anne, Bill, Finn, Porter and Drew
PS- Sherlock, 13, remains active in the Company. I failed to mention him last year and shareholders were outraged.
I surrounded the text with a picture of Porter wearing sunglasses holding Naked Baby, Finn in his karate uniform, Porter and Drew walking to the bathtub naked holding hands (shot from the back), Bill rollerblading, Finn in the garden eating dirt, Drew crying with snot dripping from his nose, etc.
I have done this each year, using a new theme each year, so the recipients of my Christmas cards have come to expect something witty and out of the ordinary from me. Or at least they should, if they have been paying attention. Apparently some people have not.
This year I chose a Lemony Snicket theme. I understood full well that some people may not have read the books, read the many articles about the author, and may also have managed to miss the publicity surrounding the movie starring Jim Carrey based on the books. That is why I put a note on the bottom of the sheet that read “With Apologies to Lemony Snicket” so that people who were unsure of the theme could at least google the name and figure out the joke.
Anyway, my card read as follows:
If you opened this envelope hoping for cheerful holiday wishes and uplifting photos, sorry. The Glamores’ Ghastly Year is a melancholy tale, and the pictures are every bit as depressing. Anne had spine surgery in January, which was just as bloody and gruesome as you might imagine. While she looks good and stands straight now, we all know that will not last, as cruel Mother Nature will undoubtedly focus on her as she nears 40. I expect that next year I shall have to report that her face is as wrinkled as a pug’s.
Drew and Porter started kindergarten and both started losing teeth. Finn is in 3rd grade. This year it was revealed that he is the unfortunate recipient of some of his parents’ less attractive genes, as he got braces and glasses. Can acne and B.O. be far behind? Thus all 3 Glamore boys have grown, continuing their inevitable passage to maturity (I hope) and the unavoidable journey to their grave.
Finn is also playing drums, and the deluded Glamore family has hopes of starting a band, which is certain to be a failure, as no one can carry a tune, and their “music” can only be described as an exercise in dissonance, without any redeeming qualities whatsoever. You will not be surprised to hear that they have not been hired for any gigs as yet, although they have vacuumed the minivan in anticipation of such engagements, and have decreed that Porter is barred from removing his shoes in the van lest the whole family be rendered unconscious by his devastating foot odor. Porter continues to putter (a word which here means “mess around”) about with odd objects, especially vacuum cleaner hoses, fashioning creations that are of absolutely no use, such as the “Hat That Lets You Blow In Your Own Ear.” Drew is taking karate and has progressed to a purple belt. He imagines himself to be quite menacing, but in fact his ashen skin, white hair and white uniform all blend together, giving him the look of a small, blue-eyed ghost who is not intimidating at all.
It is no fun being a Glamore. You may notice that the boys are arrayed in a variety of clothing in these pictures; they have tried heroically to transform themselves so that they can blend into any other family: the Hillbilly Hip-Hop family, perhaps, or the Nomads Who Wear Bandannas and Vests, but every morning they wake in their own beds and face the arduous task of surviving another day. Some days Bill is so despondent over his situation that he rips off his business attire in despair. So far his legal practice has not been affected. Sherlock lives on, although he has grown quite deaf and his breath has the fetid stench of a rotten rodent. He has been joined by a new mutt, Elvis, who has no positive attributes. All in all, I regret to report that the Glamores’ year was a sordid one, and I doubt that 2005 will be any better. I hope that you will fare better than the Glamores.
The pictures on the card were quite funny. We were smiling in all of them. There was pale Drew in his karate uniform, and the boys dressed up in a combination of fake hillbilly teeth and hip-hop jewelry, sent from their aunt. There was a picture of Porter wearing an aviator hat with a vacuum cleaner hose coming out the ear hole, with the other end in his mouth. He actually COULD blow in his own ear, and he was damn proud of it.
In one picture, Bill was ripping off his dress shirt — a very old one that had frayed along the seam so much that it had started to fall apart by itself, but I grabbed the camera and we decided to make an event of it. There were NO pictures of me in the hospital or in a wheelchair. In fact, I was perky and well-dressed in both photos of me on the sheet. In one, I was hugging Drew and laughing, and in the other Bill and I were standing together.
The reviews came quickly. My friend the Voice of Reason called and was laughing so hard she had to hang up. I got several voice mails telling me that this was the best Christmas card yet. Friends from far away emailed to say they had taken the card to the office and shared it with their friends.
However, other recipients were stunned. My mom called the next day to talk about Christmas dinner. Then she said, “Well, I got your Christmas card.”
“So what did you think?” I asked,
“You must have been in a bad mood when you wrote that,” she said. “Did you send that to any of my friends?”
I sighed. She doesn’t google, and I doubted Lemony Snicket had been in Vanity Fair or Travel and Leisure, so it probably was nowhere near her radar screen.
Then I received a card from a friend in another state. We don’t keep in constant contact; we just exchange cards each year. At the bottom of her card, she had handwritten: “I am so sorry to hear about your year. I will be praying for you!”
And so it went for the next couple of weeks. For every person who called delirious with laughter, I heard of someone who could not believe that our year had sucked so bad, or that I would share the details with the world. I made a mental note to use a more basic theme next year.
Now it’s March. Christmas cards should be the last thing on my mind. However, two things happened that got me thinking about them. First, the boys recently saw an exhibit about King Tut. They went with my mother-in-law and spent three hours learning about mummies and pyramids. They were fascinated. When Bill and I got home, the boys started telling Bill all about it. Then I heard Porter yell, “Wait! I have an idea!” and I heard a lot of running and scraping.
I ventured into the den to investigate. Bill was standing up straight, and Porter was on the step stool in front of him and Finn and Drew were on either side of him. They each had a roll of toilet paper and were wrapping the rolls around and around him so that he looked like a mummy. The boys were jumping up and down with excitement.
“See, mommy!” Porter said. “This is what a real mummy looks like, but dead!”
“”Whoa,” I said, and I went over and touched the toilet paper, just to see whether they were using their cheap, scratchy Costco brand toilet paper, or whether they had gotten into my soft, expensive Cottonelle which is strictly off limits. Bill was a scratchy mummy.
“I’m having trouble breathing,” Bill said from underneath the layers of tissue.
“Hold it right there,” I commanded. “This has Christmas card potential.”
So I snapped a number of shots before I let him burst out of the toilet paper, and already I was thinking that I had a great picture for the Christmas card.
The second thing that happened was that a friend of mine went out of town on business and saw some friends who moved away several years ago. They asked how we were doing, and my friend reported that we were all doing great.
“What a relief,” the wife said. “That was the most depressing Christmas card I have ever seen. I just did not know what to do when I got it. It sounded like they really were having a bad year, but I figured that if they were so depressed that they’d put all that in a Christmas card, I didn’t want to risk calling them and hearing about it on the phone. But I just cannot get them out of my head. I feel like I should send flowers or something.”
So you see, here I am in March, still bumming people out with my cheery Christmas card. Thanks a lot, Lemony Snicket .
(Go ahead! Click his name if you are among the bummed out recipients of my hilarious Christmas card!)