Life Support: How to write the holiday Letter

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Linger over morning coffee. Pretend to browse store circulars to get yourself in the holiday mood.

Decide mood music is needed. Spend 15 minutes searching cabinets for Christmas CDs (holiday gifts from husband). Notice CD player is no longer plugged in because all available outlets are being used by the tree lights, window candles, and annoying-sounding working cable car decorations (holiday gift from children).

Remember you don't much care for holiday music. Try to tune kitchen radio to NPR, but only station that comes in clearly is WFAN. Make mental note to get teenage son his own radio.

Wonder, for the sixth time this morning, whether younger son really must get the wildly expensive electronic gaming gift he's asked for. Decide no. Feel guilty.

Look in backs of drawers for peanut-butter-filled chocolate trees you hid last week.

Give up.

Remember that younger son rarely asks for much and still says he loves you. Call six stores to find out when/if wildly expensive electronic gaming gift is available. Find out you are too late this week. A truck is due Tuesday at 6 a.m. Or Thursday at 3 p.m. Or never.

Feel guilty for not starting this whole holiday thing earlier -- like in August.

Promise to start holiday letter after coffee. Sip cold coffee and grimace.

Start to make another cup and think a flavored coffee might get you in the spirit. Hunt tops of pantry shelves for mint extract, brown sugar or vanilla powder. Toss out teeny bottle with one drop of mint extract, brick-hard partially opened plastic bag of brown sugar, and container of vanilla powder that is suspiciously wriggling.

Hear mailman dropping large load of items into oversized mailbox (a gift from hubby).

Recall that opening holiday cards from others often motivates you to write holiday letter. See that bills and catalogs (12) outnumber holiday cards (5). Notice that three cards are from: your dentist, your auto insurance agent, and your newspaper delivery person whom you have never seen nor met.

Drop catalogs into bin, making a loud thud that turns on The Clapper (last year's holiday gift from husband and children), which activates squeaky cable cars that extend from top of tree to nearby table, where photos in glass frames have all been hastily pushed aside and stacked in a worrisome tower.

Vow to find inspiration within two holiday letters which arrived. Make a fresh cup of cranberry-apple herb tea to accompany reading. Learn that two sets of one-time friends you have not seen in six years have three children in Ivy League colleges, and one child who last summer swam the English Channel blind-folded.

Assume it must be the herbal tea that is making you queasy and dump it into sink. Spend the next four minutes scrubbing the kitchen sink with Bon Ami, followed by Clorox.

Return to holiday letters to find that distant adult friends have: been promoted, remodeled their master bedroom suites, and taken no-kid trips to Bali.

Take Target catalog into hall bathroom (which entire family shares). Circle a pair of $28 faux pearl earrings in red pen, write your name in caps, underline, and leave catalog, open to page, on nearby shelf under husband's razor.

Sigh. Promise yourself to begin holiday letter NOW.

Turn on computer. Wonder if last year's holiday letter mailing list requires updating.

Delete the addresses of friends whose holiday letters arrived earlier today. Smile.

Pull up previous year's holiday letter. Read it over and wonder what you were thinking.

Answer ringing phone to hear recorded reminder from Convenient Mail-in Video Rental Service about three overdue DVDs which will result in charges of $54.38 if not sent back today. Yank off couch pillows, swat away piles of magazines from end table, run a yardstick under all family room furniture in desperate and futile search for "Pirates of the Caribbean III," "Oceans 13," and "The Sandlot 2." Muse on what a family therapist (or a numerologist) might make of those.

Return to computer. You've Got Mail. Click through 54 e-mails, and after deleting the junk, read remaining three. Ignore the one from your Grad School saying spring semester payment is overdue. Ignore the one from younger son's Elementary School about a head lice outbreak in the fourth grade. Try to ignore the newest one from Prestigious Literary Journal saying your essay is "not for us."

Remember that younger son IS in the fourth grade.

Ponder if you deleted any important e-mails by accident. Decide it's time for lunch.

Mash up one banana with one tablespoon peanut butter and a crushed Kit Kat bar and eat.

Field calls from two relatives who ask what the boys want. Read them boys' detailed gift lists, explaining that Usi Umenyiora is actually a football player and Fact or Crap is really a board game you don't object to. Much. Listen to relatives explain what they are planning to buy the kids instead.

Take Tylenol and return to computer.

Reread last year's holiday letter. Consider changing date and ages of children and sending it out again. Call yourself Scrooge.

Sigh. Write holiday letter:

Dear Folks,

We are, thank our lucky stars, and Lipitor, all healthy. The boys are doing all sorts of mundane boy/kid things. Older son is applying to private high schools. If he gets in, next year's holiday letter will be written on a piece of cardboard taken from the walls of our new home. Younger son does not have head lice. He does have a good pitching arm and no new electronic games (hint). Mom is still in grad school and was recently published in Not-So-Prestigious Journal. Dad is now 80 percent complete on balding project.

With love,

Decide envelopes and stamps are so last year. Hit send.

Grab car keys and list of stores that carry expensive electronic games.

Lisa Romeo is a freelance writer from Cedar Grove, N.J.


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