Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Round Robin I've Just Sent

I know everyone always says that they hate those round-robin Christmas letters.

Mostly because they tend to be prime examples of Competitive Parenting coupled with a smidgin of just plain Showing Off.

They tell you how little Petronella has passed her Grade 8 Violin at the age of three. Tarquin has passed his Maths A-level and become a Chess Grand Master whilst simultaneously changing his own nappy with the hand that wasn't holding the chess pieces. The dog, Saucy Snowball, has just won Best in Show at Crufts. Even the goldfish has learned to blow bubbles in French.

The mother in the family mentions in passing how she has somehow managed to win Best-Loved Mother of the Year and modestly admits that she has no idea how she did it, what with simultaneously building up her own little embroidery company to become one of Britain's largest exporters of hand-embroidered cushion-covers. She throws in how her husband, James, has raised two hundred thousand pounds running the Little Giddings Marathon for charity.

And by now we want to hurl their letter in the bin. But we don't, we stuff it on the bookshelf behind all the cards and it comes back to haunt us in March when we realise we haven't dusted there since December. Or perhaps that's just me.

So, therefore, the fact that I've just sent out a round-robin letter to many of my friends and relatives, along with their Christmas cards, may come as a bit of a surprise to you.

The thing is, I've always been the keeper-in-touch, the sender of letters in our family. I do still send lots of postcards but last year I didn't send any Christmas cards because the Communist had just died and - - well, I just didn't. And the year before, I notice from my Christmas Card book, I did send them but with a note of explanation that the Communist was in hospital and had just had his leg amputated.

Many, though not all, learned subsequently that the Communist died - but there are still quite a few cards arriving for him.

So what could I do? Some of my family and friends have been wonderfully supportive this past couple of years but others just don't know what's gone on. And they certainly don't know that I now have a much-loved son called Olli when previously I had a much-loved daughter. Not to mention lovely son-in-law Gareth nearly dying from a burst appendix and then being made redundant, twice. And his delightful sister Jo having appendicitis too, just a month after Gareth. And my mother breaking her shoulder, twice.

So I've put the lot in a letter, and I worked very hard to make it as tactful and as gentle as possible, but I know it will all come as a big shock to many, and I know it's not what they were expecting with their Christmas cards, but I know that if I don't do it now then I never will.

And if I don't do it now then I'll have to field questions about "how's your Dad?" and "how's your daughter?" for years to come, and I just don't think I'm up to it, frankly.

So I want everyone to know what's happened. And then, perhaps, next Christmas it can be back to the cards with individual notes or letters inside, like I usually send. I do hope so.


Anonymous Milo said...

Loved your description of traditional round robin letters, SO accurate. We get a lot of them (or I seem to remember we did when I was growing up) and many of them were pretty much dead-on how you parodied them.

Like you, I'm a natural news sharer and I was always a letter writer 'back in the day' (i.e. pre- most people being on the internet). When I lived in Japan and before that the US, I would send long, long, newsy letters home to family and friends. My mum still has some and I'm always fascinated to read back through them.

These days I don't send any letters at all which is quite sad. I don't know many people who do.

11:13 pm  
Anonymous Mike Deakin said...

Time's a great healer or so the cliche goes. It still doesn't stop hurting when you get reminders like that Christmas card from his old employee. But once you've posted that letter, most people will be too polite to mention that you've lost a daughter and gained a son and they won't mention your father because you only communicate once a year otherwise they'd have already known. So it's good to get it over with and out of the way.

11:27 pm  
Blogger Yorkshire Pudding said...

You're right about those hateful self-advertising Xmas round robins. I despise them. I have sometimes thoought about constructing an "anti round robin"... In May our son Shayne was arrested for urinating on a war memorial and then he jumped bail, ending up in a squat in Brighton where he overdosed on crystal meth. I lost my van driving job in July and punched the supervisor in his solar plexus before driving home for a Domino's pizza meal deal and a can of lager..."
In contrast, your explanatory round robin is both justifiable and praiseworthy.

12:15 am  
Blogger WendyCarole said...

I hate those letters too! But yours is being written for different reasons.

9:58 am  
Blogger Ailbhe said...

After we had a very busy year I did a round robin in rhyming couplets. It went down quite well.

10:08 am  
Blogger rhymeswithplague said...

I have been inspired by Ailbhe (whose name looks like Alibi) to write the following:

Instead of a card, I provide this round robin;
'Tis written in rhyme, and 'twill set your heads bobbin'.
Day's at the morn, and the selzer is fizzin',
The family's well, 'cept for Bob, who's in prison;
The lark's on the wing and the snail's on the thorn;
Our dear niece Delilah's now starring in porn;
The hillside's dew-pearled and morning's at seven;
Ma-MAH broke her shoulder; Pa-PAH's gone to Heaven.
Me, I'm just ducky, and thank you for asking,
'Twixt role play and blogging I'm now multi-tasking.
Life's become hectic; there always are needs;
Suffice it to say, "Merry Christmas from Leeds."

2:43 pm  
Blogger The Birdwatcher said...

Life is to short, I just forget to send the cards now.

4:28 pm  
Blogger Daphne said...

Milo - I'm starting to send letters again after a few years of just emails.
Mike - thank you, that's just what I hope will happen.
YP - enjoyed your anti-round-robin and thank you!
Wendy - you're right, thank you.
Ailbhe - yes, I think that might be a good approach then people would know you're not being TOO serious about it.
Bob - brilliant, loved it! And, by chance, that Browning poem is one of my favourites.
Birdwatcher - I still like sending cards - but, like wedding invitations, I think the key is to send them only to people you WANT to send them to.

4:58 pm  
Blogger Diz said...

I always do a round robin, hopefully less annoyingly perfect than most, but this year mine would start with a car crash and end with a funeral, so I've not bothered!

4:33 pm  

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