More Than I Wanted to Know

I write this in early January, having just endured another Christmas-er, Holiday-Season during which I was graced with cards containing letters from acquaintances who were convinced I wanted to know how much more successful they were than I.

These missives-we've all received them-come in several forms. Some chronicle acquisitions obtained since we last wrote you this time last year. Yes, this was the year that Chuck finally got his Mazerati that we both so enjoy when motoring down the Pacific Highway. Ellen's new kitchen with the sun lit breakfast nook is now where we spend countless hours. Elaine and I finally purchased that six-bedroom summer cottage on the Vineyard we've had our eyes on for so long. The game room addition has been a big, big hit with Tiffani and Skye. They spend hours there playing video games on the huge flat-screen TV with their friends.

Then there are the personal accomplishment letters. Ned was elected president of the Club and has been up to his elbows supervising renovations to the pool and the women's locker room. Marlene published a play that is being seriously entertained by three producers and may eventually become a movie. Johanna and I have been named to the Scott's Turfbuilder Hall of Fame for the work we did on our front lawn. Skip and I have taken up the tango and have won three competitions so far. Wish us luck in the regionals.

If someone enjoys showing off their acquisitions or awards I suppose I can cope. Controlling envy builds character. So what that I still haven't replaced the screen on the back porch, fixed the handle on the back door, stopped the leak in the toilet or even put the photos in the album like I promised I would in October. So what that my most exciting mail comes addressed to "Resident" and the only award I've received since "we" last corresponded is a coupon for disposable razors distributed free to the first 750 admissions at the New Haven Ravens games. No wonder I don't write about these accomplishments.

The letters that really sting, though, are the "My Kid is Perfect Because I'm a Perfect Parent and By the Way, Is Your Johnny Off Probation Yet" letters. We've all received more than one of these. If I believe what I read, in about eight years the battle for valedictorian of the Senior Class at Harvard is sure to lead to bloodshed and multiple prosecutions because the children of people I know will all be aggressively vying for that honor. How they manage to accomplish so much is overwhelming. Reading Proust in the original French; developing a hydroponics tomato that cures dropsy; breaking the record for teenagers in the Marine Corps Marathon; and, of course, all those classes for extra credit.

Inevitably after a spate of these letters I threaten to load all my progeny in the back of the Buick Wagon and to drive them far, far out into the country leaving them never to return on the door- step of a farmer who needs strong backs till the fields.

There is, I am convinced, no way to compete. I have failed. Completely and utterly.

I am reminded of my shortcomings each December when, opening an envelope I hope contains a photo of a two-year old wearing foam antlers, a red hat and a big smile, out drops the inevitable sheet of green eight-and- a-half by eleven paper, folded into a square, covered with single-spaced typewriting on both sides telling me more than I ever wanted to know about people I hardly know.

There's a reason why the holidays are depressing.