Thursday, December 01, 2016

The First Awful Sign of Christmas

Last night and this morning brought the first annual sign that the Christmas season has officially kicked off. No, it was not buying and sending out Christmas cards, or putting up the tree.

It's my Maw In Law's annual Christmas letter, something I've come to dread like a long slow deep root canal.

Don't get me wrong. I love my Maw In Law, she's been great to me through the years and we have always gotten along very well. I happen to loath her hideous bragging ridiculous annual Christmas letter. One year I made fun of it here, listing the real things that had happened in her family and what she said instead.

Her letter has been a problem for me since the first year of marriage because she always manages to anger my parents and my other relatives with what she says, or doesn't say, about my children, me and my husband. I hear about it. I get outraged phone calls from my side of the family ranting about this damn letter, and have to explain again and again that I cannot control or even attempt to control my Maw In Law.

The letter is pretty hypocritical. In the early years of my marriage to her son she would tell me that she thought I was doing the right thing to be primarily a stay at home mom while my kids were young, putting down my career-oriented Fortune 500 company VP sister in law for having a nanny and staff raising the other son's children.

But when the letter would go out it would have lengthy glowing descriptions of my sister in law's awesome career, all the places she, her husband and kids traveled and did. This would be followed by a short sentence mentioning my poor husband and once in a great while mentioning me, but not by name of course and our children.

It was an annual exercise in humiliation. She would say how much she valued the stay at home mothers and their care for their children, but would say just the opposite every year in that letter.

Ten years ago I finally worked up the nerve to tell her how hurt and humiliated her letter made me feel because of the frequent lack of inclusion of my children and I, and the tiny amount she wrote about my husband, her eldest son. She claimed it wasn't on purpose and was better about it, at least for a few years afterward.

But I have just finally moved on past that, I don't give a rip what she does or does not say in those letters. I know they are gift-wrapped bullshit, so when Jim's brother called last night to say that this year's letter was sheerly awful I just laughed, said 'whatever' and left Jim and brother discussing it.

Turns out the Maw In Law got important details wrong about a recent family wedding, only mentioned the bride and the bride, Jim's brother and the hated new sister in law in the letter, skipping the brother's children, other relatives that usually get space on the letter and everyone else on our little Virginia offshoot before adding some rather bizarre paragraphs about our new president elect.

It sounds and reads like the demented ravings of someone with dementia, which isn't surprising considering she is 94 years old.

Jim and his brother do not want the letter going out like that. Jim heavily edited it and then called his mother with his suggestions. She's upset and refusing to budge an inch on changing the letter. I had to point out to my husband that anyone who knows her and reads that letter is going to realize she's not in her right mind and not hold it against her.

Does any of it matter anyway in the long run?

At least it's not an endless recitation of glory and luxury and European vacations while sweeping all the bad stuff just right under the rug.

Here's the thing about these Christmas letters. People that know me, that I care enough to stay in touch with, that genuinely care about me,  know what's going on with me, warts and all. No bragging needed.

The letter that killed me with laughter was the year of Jim's brother's divorce, two of the nieces came out as gay, another relative was indicted for embezzlement on their job, another died of liver cancer and something else bad happened, but somehow my Maw In Law found ways to either spin these things as glorious positives or just ignored what really happen for a sanitized fiction that would have done Hollywood proud.

I'm not saying you should be very negative all the time, but for God's sake, do not gild a turd! As my Cajun great grandmother used to say, and I wish I could remember it in Cajun French - this is a rough translation. You can polish a turd but all you end up with is a shiny turd. You're not fooling anyone. Just write your letter saying you were greatly blessed this year, add a few highlights but nothing over the top bragging and end with wishes for a wonderful holiday season and new year for your recipients.

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