A Look Back...

You guys probably thought that my newsletter tradition just started last year with my Beach House newsletter... but, no, it actually started before I was born!

My family used to send out a typed (on a typewriter) and photocopied (which they called "xeroxed" back then) newsletter about every other year since my brother Dante was a year and a half old (31 years ago!). In the alternate years, my parents would send out cheesy posed pictures of us, like:

We're just a normal family decorating our oldest brother for Christmas!

This year my mom found all of our Christmas tidings, so with the new year coming and all, I thought it might be fun to take a look back at highlights from my family's old newsletters. Yay! Since this is my website, I thought I'd focus mostly on the parts that are about me. How about that? :)

Just a warning: my dad had a bit of a cynical sense of humor, so just know that we were all very loved and you shouldn't take any of it too seriously!

(I was -1 month old)

"It has taken us some four years to work up the nerve to send you another of these xeroxed letters. We realize that for many of you that is not nearly long enough, and for those of you who feel that way, we apologize and promise that next year we will send you a personally written note fully as long as the one you send us this year.
Kaethe [my mom] has been busy this past several months working on our latest contribution to the gene pool, which is due in January... she is well on her way to a triple career of parent-person, house-person, and club-person. Our only hope is that she makes it before being driven completely mad by Dan [my dad] and our two previous contributions to the gene pool [Dante ('Danny') and Davidde ('David')].
Notwithstanding all this, we continue to be happy, healthy and together - and we hope this letter finds you the same. You know that we could not possibly send a letter like this to people we do not consider near and dear, and we wish you the very merriest Christmas and happiest New Year possible."

(I was 11 months old)

"Dear Friends, Relatives, and Casual Acquaintances,
We never believed we would have the gall to send you a xeroxed letter for the second straight year in a row. However, the adverse reaction from last year's letter was somewhat less than we expected, and so we decided to see if we could get away with it again. After all, it is so much easier than putting out something with a personal touch.

The big news this year was the arrival of our first daughter/sister, Ciara (named after her paternal great grandmother, and not the perfume - any reasonable pronunciation accepted). Unfortunately, she has had the bad luck to inherit both Dan's looks (swarthy) and his disposition (imperious), and so we really do not have a lot of hope that she will turn out to be much. However, she does have at least some of the normal baby charms; she doesn't eat much; she cries only after we have ignored her most essential needs for at least four hours; she doesn't walk or talk yet; and she keeps Kaethe from feeling hopelessly outnumbered, and thus we don't mind having her around for the time being.
Well, as you can see, we have made it through another year. Actually, we have more than just made it - we are all happy and healthy and grateful for the many blessings the good Lord has bestowed on us, not the least of which have been in the form of our dear friends, relatives and casual acquaintances like you. We wish you the very merriest Christmas and the very happiest New Year possible."

(I was 2-years-old)

"Before you get too upset at receiving this xeroxed Christmas letter, you should recall that we spared you this ordeal last Christmas. Admittedly, we omitted to send the letter mainly out of neglect, and not as a matter of principle, but the beneficial effect on you was still the same. Or, we should say, on some of you - because, hard as it is to believe, we actually got some (2) complaints last year (both xeroxed) that we did not send the letter.
Danny, David and Ciara are 9, 4 and 2 respectively by the calendar - although they are all just turning 4 in terms of development... Ciara, who in looks, vanity and general overbearingness is coming more and more to resemble Scarlet O'Hara, has also started nursery school, and is rapidly proving that a little education can be a dangerous thing.
And then to top things off, Dan's sister Mary Anne moved out in September to go to business school for three years, but asked us to save the room just in case she might not like school (Dan had already selected a 19-year-old French schoolgirl to move in to help with the children).

So you see you really didn't miss much not getting one of these letters last year - as a matter of fact, most of you could probably send a much longer xeroxed letter (although we hope you will restrain yourself). We also hope - and this is about as serious as this letter is going to get - that we find you happy and healthy and still together, and we wish you the very best Christmas and New Year possible."

(I was 6-years-old)

"Grit your teeth -- it is time for another of those form Christmas letters from us. A poor substitute, we know, for the posed pictures of the kids -- but we can only get them to sit still long enough every other year.

The good news: we are all healthy and happy. The bad news: we completed our descent into the middle class by buying a Chrysler minivan this summer -- and then taking it on a two week "family vacation" (ala Chevy Chase) to Washington, D.C. Dan was constantly afraid that he would be seen in the minivan (he normally drives it only on moonless nights) -- and spend as much time away from our single hotel room as he could doing his Navy Reserve duty. Kaethe and the kids spent most of the two weeks in the National Air And Space Museum. Memorable side trips were also taken to Williamsburg (which the kids voted unanimously to be the most boring place they have ever been besides home), Norfolk Naval Base (where Danny decided that he would be an Air Force rather than a Navy pilot because Navy carriers have too little landing space for a chicken), and Gettysburg (which Ciara had forgotten within two hours after our departure).
David, age 8, and Ciara, age 6, are kept busy hauling in loot from the Tooth Fairy. All of our children are doing well in school -- which shows how little need there is for hard work these days -- and all have become avid Scouts -- which would worry us if we weren't sure they will eventually outgrow it.

Sad to say, dear people, that's about all the news fits to print. We hope that your lives have been more eventful (with good things) -- and that this letter finds you at least as well off as we are. You have our very best wishes for Christmas and the New Year."

(I was 8-years-old)

"The Muse has stirred again! As it does every second Christmas -- to provide you at least a change, if not a relief, from those painfully posed photographs of our children you receive other years. This year, as always, we will try to keep the news short and sweet.
David, age 10, and Ciara, age 8, have followed the normal course of development from best friends to worst enemies. Part of the problem is their fierce competitiveness, combined with the fact that David (who refuses to recognize any semblance of "affirmative action") always beat Ciara in any game they play. Ciara gets back at David by mercilessly critiquing the prayers he is required to recite over the school's P.A. system as fifth grade Student Council Representative. You would never realize from the descriptions they give one another that they both do very well academically, in Scouts and sports, and in most of the other things they do.

Looking back on the past two years, not a lot dramatically new has happened with us -- which is just as well, because out normal life is hectic enough. We are looking forward to a little of the traditional "peace on earth" this Christmas, and we wish the same for you and your family, both at Christmas and throughout the New Year."

(I was 10-years-old)

"The time has come for another of those dreaded bi-annual Christmas letters. We have tried to lighten your load a bit this year by printing this on bio-degradable paper, so that you will not blame us so much for writing it or feel guilty as you throw it away. As usual, we will also try to keep it 'short and sweet'.
Dante, age 17, has emerged from his shell over the past two years to become a stereotypical "teenager" - although fortunately more as an 'Archie' than a 'Fonzie'... The college application process is causing him far less trauma than it is his parents - he seems to save his adrenaline for debate and forensics competitions, the school newspaper and yearbook, and a Gargantuan social life (which started with a vengeance right after he got his driver's license and when we were beginning to worry about him). You can imagine the rest - hair carefully teased to stand two inches straight up; a dress scheme that looks like something right out of the low 1950s (thin ties, completely mismatched colors and - would you believe? - white socks); a stadium-size stereo system constantly blaring out "new wave" music; a flood-tide stream of never-ending telephone calls; and two-word responses to every question he is asked (the protests as to how we are invading his privacy are longer)...

David, age 12, and Ciara, age 10, are already frightening us by the prospect of what they will be like as teenagers... Although she tries to hide it, Ciara also has become a top student at the parochial school she attends. Some of the ways she tried to hide it have been to become a cheerleader (much to the horror of Dan, who thinks it is the second worse thing that could happen to her); dress in nothing by pink and black; watch mindless sitcoms for hours on end; and continue to build the largest Barbie and Ken doll collection in the world. David and Ciara remain fiercely competitive, with David continuing to hold the edge only by his fingernails (in a typical recent exchange during one of their endless mutual quizzing sessions, Ciara caught him cold when he could not name Barbie's favorite hair style). Nonetheless, almost everyone who meets them outside of our home seems to think they are great kids - not realizing the little 'Hydes' they are around here.

As you can see, not a whole lot of interesting has happened to us these past two years - which is just as well, because it means that we all continue to be healthy and happy. If it annoys you that you have had to read all this just to find that out, you can always take a very sweet vengeance - just send us your Christmas letter. In the meantime, you have our very best wishes for Christmas and the New Year!"

(I was 12-years-old)

"Yes - Two years have again flown by, and it is time for another of those dreaded Christmas letters. However, as bad as it may seem, you have to admit that it is better to get this than the biannual picture of the kids - which only puts your soul in jeopardy as you feel compelled to write back on how cute you think they look.

Dan has had better years, but he winds up this one in good cheer. He has continued to co-head his firm's environmental law group - and is looking forward to all the new work (and fees) the incoming Clinton administration is likely to generate. He has also continued as the inveterate traveler... [regarding the Barcelona, Spain Olympic trip the boys took] Aside from the unbearable heat, the outrageous prices, the scarcity of accommodations and the fact that their car got broken into twice, they had a pretty good time - or at least its beginning to to seem that way as time passes...

Kaethe has had close to the busiest year of her life. In addition to having to do all the 'cooking, cleaning and carpooling' for the four other family members, who have no concept of how to take care of themselves, she has been teaching [college-level] Japanese language...

Dante continues to live in a world of his own - which rarely resembles this one. He has managed to make it half way through his second year in the Honors Program at the University of Michigan, even though he remains a long way from anything near politically correct thinking (as he put it in a plaintive telephone call to Dan one midnight, 'Dad, there is a support group here for everyone but me.')... In the meantime, he remains out family computer genius, consumer product expert, fashion guru (he even modeled for a Girbaud fashion show last year), trivia champion, and favorite eldest son.

David (Ciara and he are getting their own separate paragraphs for the first time this year) is a 14-year-old sophomore. Even though he is a year younger than his class, he has somehow kept a straight-A average at his supposedly demanding school without giving off any visible signs of studying... He has made the school tennis team, and would be very good at the sport if the ball could be talked over the net...

Although 12-year-old Ciara has been doing her best to conceal any signs of braininess, she only manages to hide for so long the all-A report cards she has been getting as a seventh grader at a local parochial school. She is now in her second year as a cheerleader, and has joined the girls' volleyball team. She was also seriously miscast as Mary in a school pageant. Her biggest misfortunes this year were to have Dan learn that she went to two school dances while Kaethe and he were away, and Dan's picking up the phone when some kid who described himself as 'Ciara's friend Mike' called. However, Dan has now assured her that she will not have to worry about similar incidents until she is at least 18-years-old. In the meantime, she continues to float in that surreal world between childhood and the teen years - the world's largest collection of Barbie dolls, great affection for animals (especially cows since she saw 'City Slickers'), parading around in mom's clothes, pajama parties, long whispering phone calls with girlfriends, non-stop sitcoms and Christian Slater pictures on her bedroom wall.

That's about it for this two years. As you can see, once you cut through all the palaver, we have a lot for which to be thankful. We hope that the same is true for you and your family - and that you have the best Christmas and happiest New Year possible."

Aw, we're kinda cute... right? :) Hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane and for crying out loud, have a Happy New Year!


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