I just received my sister Susan’s annual Christmas letter. Not the final version, which will make its way across the nation later this week, but the first draft, emailed to newsworthy family members so we could vet her comments about us. While I appreciate this courtesy, I always open the letter in my Google inbox with some trepidation, because I know that if what she’d written were completely innocuous, I wouldn’t get the early copy.
I hope I’m not ruining it for those who will soon receive the letter in the mail, but I will take the liberty of quoting a passage regarding one day in March:
“I think I was on the phone all day with both Mom and Betsy: ….Betsy (was) concerned about both the veracity and expertise, or lack thereof, of the Japanese government in regard to the escalating nuclear reactor crisis. I’m still not sure what she was planning to do about that.”
Reading it, I thought, What? My concerns were perfectly valid! Surely we could have scoured the internet for a more reliable information source and warned David, who lives a hundred miles west of the plant! Surely I didn’t talk her ear off! Hmm. Apparently, wrong on both counts. As it turns out, David has not only a decent IQ, access to the internet, and lots of local water and produce, but a network of friends in Japan just as concerned about getting good information as he was. He also lives several hundred kilometers upwind of the plant. We are lucky: he is fine. Except he misses butter. For some reason, there is currently a butter shortage in Japan.)
It is an unusual experience, not being the one in control of the prose. I’m supposed to be the one with all the admirable distance from my flaws and circumstances, in order to document with a reasonable amount of accuracy and humor the events of the day. An essayist or memoirist is generally the poker-fun-of, especially at herself. It’s good for me to be reminded of how it feels to appear in someone else’s print. Keeps me thoughtful. Although I do not promise to not overreact during Japan’s next natural disaster.
It’s a fab letter, Susan. Send it out.
How good are you at laughing at yourself?