Not a year goes by that we don’t receive at least a dozen of these merry little missives, and about 90% of them are either outright lies (which isn’t all that bad – we’ll get to that later) or they make you want to curse your elementary school teachers for having taught you how to read. The end to this insanity begins with you.
I’m not against sending out the family letter. It’s great to keep in touch with those friends and family members you may have not heard from or spoken with over the year. And with that being the case, this is your one and only chance to reconnect with them. Do you want this little “reunion” to induce sleep or cause nausea?
For the sake of all your involuntary recipients out there, I’ve compiled a few guidelines for you to follow when you sit down to pen the family epistle:
1. Comedy is best employed by professionals. If you’re not getting regular gigs at The Improv, don’t take this moment to try out your material. This doesn’t mean you can’t employ some humor at your own expense – poke some fun at yourself. For example, if you bear a striking resemblance to Condoleezza Rice, you might want to open the letter with, “I tried to become a body double this year for the Secretary of State, but they thought it would be unwise to employ a man in that role.”
2. A little white lie can be very effective. One year, when our oldest son was about three, I wrote that he had found one of those hairless cats in the neighborhood and thought it looked cold. So, he took some shag carpet remnants and glued them all over the feline’s physique. I went on to finish the story by saying that sealing the pores on the hapless cat caused an unforeseen side effect: death. We received calls and letters from people we hadn’t heard from for years!
3. Save a tree. By all means, keep the family letter to one side of one page – 8 ½” X 11”. (If you have more than twelve children, then you may employ the back of the single page.) Even the Declaration of Independence was limited to one page – granted, it was slightly larger than letter-size, but it was written by hand in a really huge font, and John Hancock took up some major real estate with just his signature.
4. Don’t brag! One year, some friends of ours sent us their letter highlighting all of the wonderfully expensive items they were able to buy and exotic trips they took. Upping the gag factor by about three hundred points was the fact they tried to do this through rhymes. I didn’t think it was possible, but they found words to rhyme with Chevy Suburban and pearl necklace. These are the same folks who subsequently reported that their children were brainiacs – and yet those same tots sat next to mine in preschool eating paste and running into doors with their heads.
Please bear in mind that there’s only one person who’s qualified to call himself the Leader of the Western World, and best-selling authors make a lot of money because they do really well what we can’t. Have a safe and happy holiday, and keep the home fires burning – with all those family letters that really blow!