Dear Family and Friends:
I was always one for scrawling a signature at the bottom of every card and dropping the lot into the mail. She, however, knew what Christmas was all about. Every card got its own little personal note, a sentence or two to show that she still remembered everyone on her Christmas card list. All that's changed now. I reckon it's the computer's fault. "Hey," I said last year, "why don't we have the computer make address labels. That way the post office can read the addresses." She agreed, and the marvelous machine poured forth a long strip of labels. I took some of them, wrote little personal notes on cards until I got tired of it and then reverted back to a scrawled signature. I gave the rest of the labels to her. For weeks they moved from desk to table to shelf, begging her to take a spare moment to write little personal notes in their cards. Christmas came and went; I suppose the cards got sent, but she's different now since the labels. And this year, she says, "Why don't you scribble a couple of paragraphs about significant events in our lives. We'll put copies of them in with the Christmas cards."
"This," I point out, "sounds suspiciously like an Impersonal Christmas Form Letter."
"Try to make it light and humorous," she says.
So, here it is, the First Annual, Light and Humorous, Impersonal, Halff Christmas Form Letter.
What a light and humorous year it has been for us. Late last year we decided to build an office and deck on the side of our house, and to put a shower in our basement, and to remodel our kitchen. So, we engaged this light and humorous contractor to do the job. "Four months," he says, "no problem." (That's the humorous part.) So he comes and tears up our basement floor, and our kitchen, and turns our back yard into a mud puddle. We never anticipated how interesting this would make our lives. During the rainy season, some surfers moved into our basement to be near the good waves. We became regulars at all the fast-food places. You know you're loved when the people at MacDonalds check with Wendy's and the Colonel if you don't show up at the usual time. "Have you seen the Halffs? They're always here by 7:00 on Wednesdays. We're worried sick about them." In July we were worried sick about our contractor, whom we hadn't seen in two months. As it turned out, there was a perfectly logical explanation; he'd gone bankrupt. But, as a family, we're still all together, and, as a business, we still have clients. And the office and the kitchen and the basement&endash;they're almost done.
If you really want a light and humorous life, get yourself a seventeen year old son. Experience the thrill of riding in the front seat of a car driven by someone who has never driven before. It gives you a new appreciation of what it means to be alive. Want to renew your faith in the public school system? Watch your seventeen year old wage a free-press campaign (arm bands, leaflets, posters, the whole bit) against the principal of his school. Spend nights wondering whether he'll get suspended before or after his transcript goes out to colleges. Watch him get a part in a school play (A Midsummer's Night Dream at the beach). Watch him get a part in a second (The Crucible, or "Fighting your principal over principles"), even after they've seen him act in the first. Watch him get two (yes, two) parts in a third (As You Like It.). Try to figure out when he does his homework. Wonder if he's going to remember to apply for college admission.
It's Christmas, and we do remember you, even without little personal notes. So light candles, give gifts, sing, dance, pray, and let's all keep the spirit of the season going as long as we can.
"The Oxen" by Thomas HardyChristmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
"Now they are all on their knees,"
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.
We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in a strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.
So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet, I feel
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
"Come; see the oxen kneel,
"In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,"
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.