For the first 12 Christmasses of our marriage, my wife Susan begged and pleaded with me to compose a Christmas letter so our friends and relatives could stay abreast of our family news. Then, in 1992, the begging and pleading abruptly stopped. That was the year I wrote my first and last Christmas letters. Susan rejected my first effort for no apparent reason, so with great patience and forbearance, I wrote and rewrote, edited, struck out words, and reworded. Personally, I thought the first edition was perfectly suitable for sending out. I had, after all, simply followed the format and tone of most of the Christmas letters I had ever read…
Dear Family, Friends, and Followers,
My, what a busy, rich, rewarding, wonderful year we’ve had! Life goes by so fast but we’ve managed to fill it to the fullest.
Loren continues to enjoy being one of the top people at his company. This year he received six promotions and a Congressional Medal of Honor. He was named Inventor of the Year for his system that uses satellite tracking to recover missing grocery carts. He continues to enjoy the challenges of quantum physics and occasional chats with Steven Hawkins. Bill Clinton has been calling on him for advice on foreign policy. Loren told him all policy is foreign to him. Bill sounds really excited.
Susan has been busy writing her third (!) doctoral dissertation and launching her national chain of lingerie and lawn supply stores. Somehow she still finds the time to plan dinner for fifty and bake cookies for David’s kindergarten class.
John has just completed the 300 by 600-foot gymnasium addition to his clubhouse, complete with Olympic size swimming pool. Earlier this year, he signed a deal with Citicorp to lease out the 30th through 37th floors for office space.
Tim is now a big third-grader. He drives behind the other two graders on the road crew. (Ha, ha!) We all enjoy humor now and then at our house. Actually, Tim has little time for playing with Tonka toys. His special honors work (through Harvard University) keeps him very busy. He was placed in the program after being ranked third in the world academically among third graders. (We later found out the other two students cheated.)
David started kindergarten this fall. It seems like just last summer he was a preschooler! His class got to go to Washington D. C. for a field trip. Next spring they are going to Brussels to get a first-hand look at the European Union.
Sarah is a rambunctious two-year-old. She is finally starting to talk – in French, her third language. She learned English at five months and Swahili at one year. One day Loren came home to discover that she had completely disassembled our $14,000 computer! Needless to say, she didn’t get any allowance that week till she had put it all back together.
Our pets are all doing fine. Fluffy and Foofoo are looking forward to the holiday season. Sarah’s thoroughbred, Play Dough, won The Preakness and The Kentucky Derby but not the Belmont Stakes. We were so disappointed!
The house is so much more enjoyable with this year’s addition of 8,000 square feet. (We were so cramped with only the original 12,000.)
Still have the same cars as last year. The “Jag” has been in the shop for occasionally running on only eleven cylinders so it’s probably time to think about trading. We rolled the Rolls so it’s in England right now, being repaired. We’ll most likely fly over there to inspect the job they did before authorizing return shipment.
Speaking of flying, we calculated the other evening that between the six of us we’ve traveled a combined total of 43,061 miles this year! Unfortunately, our Far East trip was cut short by a business emergency in Twangpoon, Outer Bangbasherash. Loren has an office there. We were able to stay at the company villa. (The hotels are terrible in Outer Bangbasherash.)
Well, enough about us! How are you all doing? Do let us know about your latest exploits, achievements, and acquisitions, and let’s stay in touch!
– The Harders
Susan was neither impressed nor amused by my attempts to present our admittedly modest year’s achievements in the best possible light. Very well, I decided, if she wants us to look like underachievers, I can make us look like underachievers…
To Anybody Out There Who Still Cares,
It’s been another mediocre year at the Harder house. In fact, I (Loren) think this year was probably a little more mediocre than most. Loren (Susan writing) never seems to make enough money, the house is drafty and somebody is always sick. We kept track of all our illnesses. Would you believe we had over 300 sick-person-days this year?
Our old car (Loren writing) had been smoking so badly we decided to keep a canary in the back – just for safety. After the canary died we still couldn’t afford another car (we were turned down by Creditman Auto Sales) so we drive around with all the windows down. That’s okay because we were looking at shelling out almost $15.00 to get the other two windows fixed so they’d roll up.
The one bright spot this year has been the whiplash payments. I (Susan) thought the car was totaled but the ever-clever Loren worked wonders with that crowbar so we can still drive it! The car has been a blessing (Loren writing). The real accident paid off so well we staged three more fake ones and have collected almost $100.
Our house is still the same as you might remember it. The fire didn’t really cause all that much damage. The boys like to pretend the tarp over their room is a tent. One day it’s camping, the next day it’s the circus. I (Loren) got a good deal on a mobile home that was hit by a tornado. We’ve been able to make lots of repairs on our house using tin, etc. from it. Unlike last year, we’ve had no plumbing problems this year because the well is completely dry. Good thing too! Most of our pipes froze and burst after the furnace blew up last winter.
Our children have all been in school fairly regular. We are quite proud of them but we’ll let each write about themselves:
I (John) narrowly escaped tragedy when my clubhouse collapsed. Dad told me not to put a cast iron bathtub on the third floor but would I listen? Nooo! Trouble is, I’ve learned to be real leery of Dad’s advice. So this time he happened to be right. Mom and Dad cut off my 15 cents a week allowance after I forgot to take my pet weasel out of Mom’s dresser drawer and he chewed a hole in it. (I also forgot that he gets claustrophobic.) Anyway, my only income this entire year has been from selling my clubhouse for kindling.
I (Tim) doent wunt two rite no stewpid leader butt dad ses i hav two. I hayt scul!!! I ulmost hed a dee averj butt i flunct two meny klaszez. my favert subjekt is speleng. i doent wunt to breg butt i am numbor 30 in mie klasss!
(David writing) Please keep us in your prayers! Dad’s compulsive gambling is working a real hardship on all of us. Mom’s amnesia has been getting worse. Sometimes she wonders off now. Once it took us a whole week to find her. We think it may be stress-related. For Christmas this year I would like some Play-doh. That way Sarah and I will have something to eat when Dad loses all our money or Mom can’t remember how to cook.
Sarah (written by Susan) This year I outgrew putting everything in my mouth so Dad is relieved that he won’t have to scrape off all the old lead-based paint. Next year, Mom wants me to get potty trained but I don’t know. David tells me that’s no picnic. In the winter it’s cold out there and in the summer there are hornets under the seat.
Well, that’s all of us except, of course, the pets. You remember our kitten, “Furball”. He’s grown up now and we’ve changed his name to “Hairball”. He does disgusting things and doesn’t respond at all to Robitussin®. “Puddles”, our poodle is grown up now too but we haven’t changed his name because he still isn’t housebroken. The parakeet has become a left-wing liberal from reading the papers on the bottom of his cage. We make him listen to Rush Limbaugh in the hopes that his other wing will be conservative.
Hope this letter finds you all in as good a shape as we’re in. We’d say to phone or write, but the phone company has been real nasty about getting us reconnected (we always sent them something every month) and Loren (Susan writing) still hasn’t replaced the mailbox. It was vandalized for the fourth time this year in May. So you’ll just have to stop in! You’re always welcome. Please just give us a little advance notice.
— The Harders
I don’t remember what Susan sent out that year. All I know is, I have been blissfully free from holiday letter-writing chores ever since.
©1992 Loren Harder