The Family Holiday Newsletter died yesterday. It was born in December, 1996 when the Family Sons were ages seven, five and three. It may have been before then, but there were no files older than 1996 on the 500GB external hard drive.
It had been on life support for some time, but since this is the third year running that it has failed to make an appearance, the Family finally said their tearful goodbyes and pulled the plug. The newsy, bulleted, Family Holiday Newsletter was one of those “brag sheets” that were de rigueur for “parents of a certain age,” thirty and forty-somethings whose prodigy kids composed symphonies at age five, set age records in the marathon at age seven and cured cancer at age nine. The Family Sons were right in there with them, of course. Okay, maybe slightly behind them, but still 75th percentile or above in most areas.
But children grow up, and the heavenly choirs who once sang their “Hallelujahs!” each time the lads managed to run to first base without tripping, and, having arrived safely, put on their sliding gloves just like the pros do on TV, and leaned toward second (with one foot on the bag since this is Little League), and stared down the pitcher as if to say, “I’m gonna steal and there’s nothing you can do about it,” well, those choirs have laryngitis. “The wheels of the gods grind slowly, but they grind fine.” Expectations are tempered and modified. This year, the Family Parents are satisfied with no arrests (as of this writing) and incremental improvements in the Family Sons’ various endeavors.
The Family Holiday Newsletter was inflicted with a bad case of blogging, Facebook and Twitter, but for awhile, it fought valiantly. It was, after all, something that many Family Friends said they looked forward to (although looking back they may have been lying through their teeth). It had been around a long time, a Pre-“Social Media” relic, but it deserved its place at the table, kinda like the venerable, bibbed great-grandpa with “old timers” disease at family gatherings. Nobody’s sure what to do with the old fella, but they try to be nice to him, speak loudly, and make sure he’s comfortable.
But we live in an Age of Information and Processed Food, and like Americans are prone to do, we often eat too much and get stuffed. There’s hardly anyone out there on those old holiday mailing lists who aren’t Family “Friends” on Facebook, glued to the computer screen watching every Family fart and sneeze 24/7/365. Folks are very familiar with the Family “brand,” and overexposure is a clear and present danger.
Still, in its time and place, it served well. It wasn’t always filled with the latest accomplishments, acquisitions, and adventures. Sometimes it was stained with the Family’s tears. Some years it didn’t even come out, so deep was the grief. It didn’t always make things sound better than they were. Sometimes the mask dropped like a stone to the floor and, lo and behold, there was life, not as the Family wished it could be, but as it actually was.
This forced the Family to become more honest with themselves, with others and with God. That led them down strange paths. It changed the way they saw the world. It reordered First Things. It made them realize that Perfection is greatly overrated and that a little Peace goes a long way, filling your belly in a way that accomplishments and possessions never could.
The Family Holiday Newsletter was a great teacher, and it taught them this: That when you lay your head down at night after a long day in the “fields,” it doesn’t have to be on the latest space-age mattress. A life correctly ordered, along with some straw and a feeding trough, are cushion enough.
Yes, let us sing the praises of the Family Holiday Newsletter. It died yesterday, not with a bang or a whimper, but with a satisfied sigh.