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It just occurred to me, with Gill’s imminent arrival here for Christmas, that I have neglected to send any Christmas cards this year. It was something I used to love doing. I’d pick something with cute animals or birds in the picture (something that has bugger-all to do with the season) and send a heartfelt message, written in my own unintelligible script, to add the personal touch for friends, obscure relatives and people I was too timid to strike from my list. The best part was that I could plop the cards I received in return on the mantel and ta da, the house was decorated. A lazy man’s Christmas.

I think the final nail in the coffin of Christmas cards for me was the receipt of The Annual Letter — computer-generated. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. I’m all for shortcuts – I will never criticize someone for squeezing into Spanx rather than dieting, I will hire someone to do my windows, carpets and anything else that involves cleaning my house, but the computer-generated Annual Letter doesn’t do it for me. Besides, it doesn’t stand upright on the mantel and is thus useless for my instant decorating scheme.

This letter purports to wish the recipient well but actually is nothing more than a detailed list of ‘How Much More Awesome My Family is Than Yours’. The writer invariably lists the many fabulous accomplishments of her family (including her own trophy for perfect attendance at the Yummy Mummy convention. If you look carefully, you’ll see it in the background of the family photo, proudly displayed on her mantel and graciously donated by Looloo Lime sportswear and the ‘Snip It Right’ plastic surgery clinic.)

I’m fine that the writer is proud of her family. But please, please, throw me a bone. A tiny imperfection. Anything. I’ll take a pimple eruption before a child’s prom, a middle finger salute to an annoying boss (and subsequent exposure on YouTube), an insignificant root canal, even driving over her cat by accident. Something to prove she’s human.

Gill thought I should seek my revenge by replying to the letter. So this year, I tried my hand at it. The following is the result:

Dear Perfect Family Not Us,

I hope this finds you well. I trust you receive this before jetting off for your fabulous Christmas vacation. We have all succumbed to The Great Cold that is ravaging Southern Ontario and will be cozying up to the Kleenex box, Netflix and all the Tylenol Cold we can legally slosh down our gullets. Forget the turkey…we’ll be too spacey to cook or eat it.

We are doing (and I speak in general terms, not this week) as well as can be expected. As you know, both of my daughters have arthritis. Most days, you can barely see their limps. Gill, the eldest and my co-conspirator in this blog, the one with Crohn’s disease, spent much of the last week in the bathroom. Turns out that Crohn’s is the best weight loss program ever. She recommends it to anyone who wants to lose two dress sizes before the holidays. She also advises buying stock in a toilet paper company. But I’m not allowed to since that might be viewed as ‘insider trading’.

My son recently tore his ACL during a Continental Divide bike race. It was a welcome distraction from the stress over his escape from the typhoon in Manila, the back alley doctor in that same city who treated him with an injection of something (we know not what), the border difficulties in Africa, and the bedbug infestation he brought home — all job-related. Some argue that his job is exciting, glamorous. I break into hysterical laughter at such comments. But I understand he is in line for the Motel 2 Platinum Member’s card.

My youngest daughter, her dog and I hold the fort when he is away. The Pig is a delightful companion for me after my own dog’s demise. I look forward to her daily garbage raids — necessitating trips to the vet to have her stomach pumped. As a side note, it is my honour to be contributing to the vet’s children’s Harvard education.

My children provide me with company, laughs and entertainment in my Golden Years – although being part of a flat share arrangement isn’t really how I envisioned things going. But I can truly say they are ‘here’ for me.

I love my children and am proud of them. They keep me laughing. As they say, “We’re glad to help, Mom. You’re welcome!” It doesn’t get better than that.


The Long-Suffering Mother