"What is wrong with this family?" I would scream year after year as my menfolk lay strewn around the family room along with bags of chips, empty sports drink bottles and other litter. Laundry was piled everywhere and the fact that the washer and dryer were in my kitchen meant that their dirty socks and underwear were right next to where I cooked dinner. The dog did not clean up after himself, but rather had a penchant for chewing on used bathroom tissues and feminine hygiene products which I would find strewn by the chip bags and sports bottles when I came home from work.
So in 1989, with the the idea of the subliminal message "HELP ME!!!" imprinted into the paper, I wrote my first Christmas note. Son #3 had arrived in April just eight months after buying our deli/catering business in Matawan and one week after our partner cleaned out the bank account and left us and his wife. I wrote delicately about that-choosing to focus on long hours and a baby eating dirt out of the potted plants.
The years that followed got more edgy as I touched mostly on things the boys did to each other. The peanut in the ear incident which required a trip to the emergency room to remove. The "slight" push by one darling off the little red car which resulted in a broken arm and a visit from DYFUS. The three altar boys fighting over carrying wine to the altar incident. A different year, the same altar boys laughing hysterically (and not being able to stop) during the solemn Good Friday service. The future scientist practicing mold experiments by leaving half-eaten sandwiches under his bed. The trips to court for infractions they just couldn't believe a cop would nail them for. And especially the night one of them vomited on the back of Harrison Ford.
The story sent with one Christmas picture captured the spirit of my writing:
"The 2004 baseball season was the only one in which all three boys would ever wear the same uniform, and the entire season passed without getting a picture of them. On December 22nd, I packed their uniforms and drove them screaming and kicking to the one-hour mall photo shop, which was crammed with screaming and kicking infants being photographed for Christmas. With my three sullen 6-foot babies in tow, I was politely informed that because I didn't have an appointment, there could be no photo. (I now know how Mary felt when she was told that without reservations, there was no room at the inn.) I was considering either a tearful plea or screaming and kicking myself, when from behind me, one of my "cherubs" said "Nice move, ma. What a waste of my time. You're so stupid." The woman behind the counter glared up at him, pointed her finger in his chest and said "YOU shut up, and the three of you get in that empty studio." The only problem was that the camera was mounted on a pole on the floor at a 3' height (for photographing babies). So this photo for their dad was taken with three very unhappy boys kneeling on the floor."
People would thank me for writing about having such a normal family, and say they couldn't wait for the next installment. But there were two people who were not amused by my letters: Wingman and his mother. I was chastised for embarrassing the family name and was told that I couldn't send out my 2006 letter unless they edited it.
So I allowed them to make it the kind of letter I hated, and mailed it out only to the people on that side of the family.
Then I mailed out my original letter to the rest.
And that was my last letter, because I realized that I didn't want my thoughts edited by anyone except myself. I mean, can you imagine J.K Rowling changing Harry Potter because someone was against witchcraft?
I should have used my favorite Glinda line from the Wizard of Oz on them: " You have no power here! Begone, before somebody drops a house on you, too!"
And believed her when she said "You're capable of more than you know..."