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A Note From the Family

Each year about now I get around to answering those Xeroxed Christmas messages from far-flung friends who relate in painful detail their activities for the preceding year. The messages range from a year of good news--"In March, Wendell was promoted to Free World regional manager for Micro-Waves International and in June our 9-year-old Everett (we call him Punkins) got his Ph.D. from Yale"--to a year of utter devastation--"Carmella died bleeding from the mouth and poor Matthew hasn’t been the same since that dog attack destroyed his face.”

Usually I respond to these lengthy messages of triumph and despair with a short note meant to convey either my best wishes or my sympathies, though once, due to a momentary lapse, I missent a “glad to hear of your good news” note to an acquaintance whose wife, Edna, was arrested for trying to have him killed for his insurance. The plot was discovered when she agreed to sleep with an off-duty cop moonlighting as a carpet-layer and, so doing, let slip in passion what she had planned in callosity.

The acquaintance, whose name was Bernie, never wrote to me again after receiving my improperly sent note so I don’t know whether or not Edna was ever convicted of her indiscretion. Too bad, it was one of the better Christmas messages, and I would have liked to have heard the conclusion.

For some reason this year I found myself without enthusiasm for responding even briefly to those biographical chronologies from afar and spent days trying to figure out how to avoid answering them without totally isolating myself from any friend I’ve ever had. While I’m sorry about Matthew’s face and happy about little Punkins, I would prefer not to read about them in long form.

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Then it occurred to me that writing my own mini-bio would accomplish two purposes. It would fill my friends in on my preceding year and at the same time serve as a column, a stroke of good fortune not lost on those committed to filling space on a regular basis. The problem, however, is that nothing of a significant personal nature occurred during 1988, and while there has been some career movement, it hardly equals being promoted to Free World regional manager for Micro-Waves International.

“You fixed that loose board in the fence,” my wife said helpfully. “Maybe you could tell them about that.”

“Fixing a fence is not a triumph of any proportion,” I said, “though had I slipped and impaled myself on a picket it might make a nice aside. ‘Joanne had a terrific year working, remodeling the house, creating a garden and taking photographs. Al impaled himself on a picket fence.’ ”

“What about your ingrown toenail,” she said. “It bled a lot.”

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“Not a good enough tragedy.”

“The way you moaned made it seem like one. Re-create the moaning in prose form, and you can turn it into a double-amputation.”

“That’s not funny,” I said.

“You thought the dogs attacking Matthew’s face was funny. Maybe old Matt would get a laugh out of your toe.”

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“Forget my toe.”

“How about your sore jaw?” she said. “It took up about half the year. Surely it’s worth something.”

“The damned thing still hurts.”

“I’m surprised the martini therapy didn’t work this time,” she said. “Maybe you should leave out the olives.”

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“You can’t say I didn’t try on this one. I’ve been to two internists, an ENT man and a dentist. They want to restructure my jaw, drill out my sinuses and pull my teeth. If I’d have gone to a gynecologist, he’d have recommended a hysterectomy.”

“Then there’s the fight you had with a whole room full of progressive people,” she said. “I’ve never seen you take on an entire auditorium before.”

“I wasn’t taking them on. I just wanted to know what a bioregionalist and an ecofeminist was. Made-up terms annoy me.”

“You made that Chinese couple sound like a quick lunch.” She mimicked me: “‘Are you combo-sinobiolregionaleco-feminists?”’

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“They said they were.”

“They didn’t speak English! They’d have said yes to anything!”

“Well, anyhow, nothing happened to message the world about.”

She shrugged. “Make up something.”

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A good idea. So, to my friends everywhere:

1988 was a terrific year. Joanne learned to sky-dive, read Sanskrit and excel in Greco-Roman wrestling. Al won a gold medal in the Seoul tae-kwon-do competition, but the glow was taken off his victory when it was discovered that his ingrown toenail was infected and, at a cardiologist’s suggestion, he underwent a 14-hour heart transplant. But everything’s just working out swell!

And we’re thinking of you.


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