(Do Buddhists write Christmas letters? Heck, do Buddhists even celebrate Christmas? There's a question that you can ask ten Buddhists and get twenty different answers, never mind forty deep discussions. As far as I can tell, there's one big Buddhist holiday and it's in the spring. The rest of the year is pretty much holiday-free. Or, as I like to think of it, every day is a celebration of life. So Buddhists celebrate everything. Which I guess makes us the anti-Jehovah's Witnesses. If one of those folks knocks on my door and we happen to shake hands, will we explode? Somebody needs to tell the people at the Large Hadron Supercollider.)
I don't know why so many people have a beef with Christmas letters. I like them. There are plenty of people in the world that I used to hang around with a lot but since more or less lost touch with, used to be good friends but our lives went different directions and we drifted apart but I still care about them, that I'm tied to by blood but haven't seen in a long time, and so on, and I really don't think hearing from them once a year is such a huge imposition. Maybe I would mind if the Christmas letters I got were all about their kids winning the Tri-State Spelling Bee with their rendition of psychoichthyspaliadosis while their husbands were busy getting promoted to junior partner at Jackal Jackal Jackal Hyena and Slug, but they're not, usually. Most of the people I know are pretty ordinary. Some of them have some pretty extraordinary stuff going on (like living in Trinidad, or with twenty-six rescue cats, or with stage-four lung cancer), but they, themselves, are just ordinary folks. The older I get, the more I appreciate ordinary.
I try to write Christmas letters that are funny, engaging and (most important) true. By nature I'm basically incapable of lying, but I can (and sometimes do) shamelessly exaggerate. So I need Joan to keep my feet on the ground. She has the ultimate thumbs up or down on whether something gets included in the Christmas letter. She also rules on cute, which is a much harder quantity to, uh, quantitize. I mean, it's adorable when the tuxedo cat with only one eye climbs up onto one of our chests and buries her face in an armpit, but to other people, is that cute or just gross? I wouldn't have any idea, see. That's where Joan comes in. (And...expecting a thumbs down on that one. Just in case you were wondering.)
There's also the picture issue. We try to send a couple of pictures along, so people can see that we're aging gracefully. Or not. What few pictures we have of us tend to be on our cell phones, though, and apart from emailing them to myself (which takes ages) I still haven't figured out a good way to get them off. Yes, it's a little faster on the new BlackBerry than it was on the old one, but it still crawls along at a glacier pace. (Obviously I need a Torch. Somebody who has $400 bucks to spare needs to get me one for Christmas. Of course, if I knew anyone who had $400 bucks to spare, I'd probably talk them into donating it to Heifer International for a couple of water buffaloes. I've always wanted to give someone a water buffalo. It just seems like a good thing to do.)
Well, anyway, the Christmas letter isn't gonna write itself, nor is it gonna copy itself, stuff itself into envelopes and mail itself to households in North Dakota, Arizona, Oklahoma and, uh, Trinidad. So wish me luck. Who knows, maybe next year at this time I'll be writing from the Hermitage. Between reading emails from my agent. And forty pounds thinner. Hey, it could happen.