The concept of the Christmas letter always confused me. I was not raised in that Protestant tradition. To my teenage mind, the letter seemed an adult thing, rather hypocritical, since if you were truly friends and cared how the other person was faring, you would have written a real letter or phoned sooner. Yet, here sat this would-be friend penning a summary of the year, some entries running as follow: Ginny cut a new tooth; Benji now has a slick, new two-wheeler; Granny was tippling and slipped down the stairs—her hip works better now.
As an adult, shrinking my year or questions and concerns about a friend’s, struck me as confining and reductive–if ten sentences or less define the best and worst moments of 1970, 2000, or 2017. Besides, for the purpose of this blog and continuity and chronicity, I’ve already published a type of holiday letter, expressing gratitude for the new people, new writing opportunities, and newly discovered authors, which had recently entered my life.
And yet I see flashbacks to old friends and stories reappearing in my present-day reality. Facebook names and photos revive youthful faces from early family parties, high school, and college. A giddy, momentary “aha” of happy surprise escapes from my mouth.
As the fleeting recognition flicks by, something more enduring startles me, prompting me to take up paper and pen to commit heart-felt thoughts to a more traditional type of letter. Faces and words, true friends, past partners emerge hazily through the gossamer layers of decades past. Clearing, their crystalline characteristic traits more pronounced, more real. One, my first partner, tells me about her current partner these past twenty-five years and their bravery in the face of the ongoing and eroding cancer they’ve endured. Another, this first friend’s first partner, thanks me for my continued support of her successful feminist films the two of us helped her initiate in the 1980s. She may have to evacuate, West Hollywood fires poised to scorch her home as I write this.
These old friends connect the disparate stages of my life, irregularly shaped pieces that somehow fit together. My former partner’s wife’s cancer walks hand-in-hand with the evacuation orders my wife faces in a week, evacuation of the cancer burning up her body.
The jigsaw forms rise up out of this chemical bath and the image takes shape before my eyes. The news in this letter is real, not maudlin, not saccharine and fixed solely on paper. All the pieces come together in one great continuity as we age together in love and caring. That is the health of our ongoing connections.
Dolores Maggiore is the author of Death and Love at the Old Summer Camp, her debut award-winning (Rainbow) novel published by Sapphire Books in July 2017 and Love and Lechery at Albert Academy: Pina and Katie and the Stalker of Albert Hall, coming June 2018. She lives in Portland, OR and Borrego Springs, CA with her wife, Terrie, and Murphy, the rescue poodle, and Xander, the lynx point critic.