To our dearest friends and family members, not that we don't think of our family members as friends, or for that matter, our friends as family members, but the point is, do not attempt to start your own Christmas letters with a run-on sentence, I am a professional.
If it feels like a little too much at any point, remember that however inadequate your own accomplishments may seem in light of our big, big year, they are still special in their own way. Let's hear it for you!
A little later.
I would begin with the biggest news, but again, it's been nothing but big news this year, so let's just start with me.
First, I met my goal of completing a page a day on at least one of my 365 novels in progress, some of which are more like grocery lists, but still. As the saying goes, a page a day is a novel a year, if you are Nora Roberts. I wish I could tell you there were some sort of shortcut to this type of achievement, but there's no getting around the fact that setting the bar very, very low is kind of the linchpin. Also, typing.
In sporting news, as you may have already heard, it looks like I will have to clear out a little space on the trophy shelf as the Midwestern Suburbs' 2014 competitive figure skating season gets under way. I'm not exaggerating when I say I pretty much own the 14-and-over category in my division.
But it's not just the trophy shelf sagging under the weight of my accomplishments. My resume, while not technically sagging, is also getting a little crowded, with the addition of 14 new part-time jobs this year, some of which even came with salaries.
Of course, with every increase in earning power, the Kamikaze children were there to take up the slack. I don't think there are two children on the planet with the budget stretching talent of the Kamikaze offspring.
We didn't think we could afford to equip the boy with the overpriced - yet incredibly fragile - telecommunications device he coveted, but, as he was able to demonstrate by dropping a weight on the first one, it turned out we could actually afford two! And you would not believe the price of the college education we were able to obtain for him simply by mortgaging whatever was left of our hopes and dreams.
As luck would have it, Veruca Salt Kamikaze has turned out to be something of a financial magnate, leveraging her babysitting money for concert tickets that she resells at a profit to buy more concert tickets. Anything left over goes to buy overpriced perfume sprays with names like "Underage Seduction" and "Don't tell My Parents What this is Called."
If anyone can afford to keep the Kamikaze family in overpriced perfume spray with flagrantly sexual overtones, she's the one. I doubt there is a sexier smelling house anywhere in the 12-state Midwestern region. She also baked a record number of cupcakes and became a semi-licensed driver, so the car smells pretty good too.
Technically of course, it is Mr. Kamikaze and the newspaper "industry" that keeps the Kamikaze family in overpriced perfume spray, not to mention replacement phones, figure skates and cupcakes, but a Christmas letter is no place to get technical. It is enough to say that without him, and the couch cushion coin reserve, the entire enterprise would be pretty shaky. And most of those coins are actually his too. But whatever. Maybe it's the cheap red wine in the $65,000 wine glass talking, but it all seems to work somehow.
The Kamikaze Family, LLC.
But something told me I would recognize the college boy who got off the plane last night. And that something was the text he sent after I failed to check him in for his flight fast enough to allow him to board with the first group:
"B15? Were you even trying?"
I hadn't seen him since leaving him in Los Angeles in August. But it seems like only yesterday I was cleaning his room, stocking the refrigerator with food he will leave half-eaten in various places around the house, and listening to him complain about our holiday plans. Why would I make plans that force him to spend New Year's Eve with his family? What was I thinking?
I don't know what I was thinking. I haven't really had time to think about it. It's been a busy four months since I said goodbye and watched as he walked away across the USC campus.
The next few hours were long and a little weepy, and I wondered, what would life be like without him? Then he called to remind me he had left his goggles and swimsuit at home and wanted to get in the pool right way. Could I get to a sporting goods store and back to campus before my flight left?
There were a million little logistics to iron out when I returned home. There were care packages, financial aid details, requests for money. There were navigation glitches and more care packages and requests for more money. It was almost Thanksgiving before I started to think of him as "not here." He wouldn't be coming home; air fare was too expensive. What will you eat? I asked him.
He told me not to worry. His Dickensian childhood had left him well prepared for such hardship.
"I spent my entire childhood scrabbling through the refrigerator searching for unexpired food," he said.
Oh god. It is the saddest thing ever. It is impossible to number all of the ways in which I have failed him. But I know it's at least 15.
Related grievances: How to eat like a 17-year-old
She calls you "Trish," as in, "Trish, would you like to start the coffee? That would be lovely." Trish is not your name.
She crawls into your bed and refuses to leave until you have agreed to listen to "just one song." It is never, ever just one song.
She calls you on the phone when you are driving home from work just to listen to you sing, because you have a terrible voice and it makes her laugh. She swears this is your own private joke and that she is not broadcasting your voice over speaker phone.
She makes fun of your clothes and then borrows them. She returns them stained. Her room is a mess. She camps out for concert tickets and sells the extra ones for profit. She is getting a C in economics, if she's lucky. She writes on herself. She tries to trick you into watching weeper movies by calling them comedies. She never gets tired of crying over the imminent death of young and beautiful people living out their brave and final days over a cloying soundtrack.
She laughs as hard as you do, but her specialty is deadpan. When there is a joke to be played she goes all in. If you suggest bringing balloons to the airport to welcome/embarrass her brother, who is coming home from college for the holidays, she will suggest more balloons. Bigger balloons. Balloon animals. She cried when he left. Then she moved all her stuff into his room and put her name on the door.
She calls him almost every day. She makes him put his roommates on the phone.
She can do things with her hair and makeup that will make everything within 15 feet of her look like unwashed laundry. If something in your wardrobe provokes her disapproval, you will have no choice but to dispose of it. Then you will notice she has paired black leggings with one of her brother's t-shirts and has drawn triangles on the backs of her hands with a green Sharpie, but it will be too late to get your corduroys back from Goodwill.
She knows how to make you laugh when you are mad. She knows when you are sad. She knows the songs you put on repeat when you are alone in the car. She knows how to do your voice on the phone well enough to trick everyone but your best friends. She knows where you hide things. She knows how to make creme brulee but she is powerless against the allure of recipes that require food coloring and cake mixes and go mostly uneaten. She knows her rainbow cake will go mostly uneaten, but doubles the recipe anyway because otherwise what would be the point of using so much food color?
She knows way too much. She doesn't know where she left your scarf. She has no idea what happened to all the food coloring.
She knows you will buy more.
from the Girl Kamikaze archives: Whoever came up with the idea that creativity in children should be encouraged probably did not have 11-year-old girls
In a season in which far too many beverages opt for the sensible shoe, this is a wine that is making the effort.
Many thanks and sloppy wet wine kisses to two dear friends and Kamikaze readers who sent this wine stopper along just in time to remind us: you can't have leftover wine without more wine.
Also, if you're not wearing your peep toe stilettos in your own kitchen, whose kitchen are you saving them for?
Nobody ever remembers the telephone conversations I conduct from the shower, the text messages I answer in my sleep, the calls I pick up on the first ring while staggering beneath grocery bags filled with stuff requested in text messages I scan while pushing a shopping cart.
I'm not asking for a math prize or anything, but once I answered a series of texts at 12:35 a.m. to discuss the implications of the Fibonacci sequence. I'm pretty sure it was last night.
I take calls in my downstairs office that come from upstairs bedrooms where the teenagers believe room-to-room telephone communication is as normal as ordering Pop-Tarts over the internet. Because why wouldn't you?
But my semi-heroic availability for supply wrangling and problem solving will never be part of our family narrative. It's the unsung kind of semi-heroism. I get that. No one wants to hear a song about last minute requests for poster board or emergency Nutella runs.
Still, it rankles me to hear the story that has sprouted in its place. In this version, I am The Mother Who Never Answers Her Phone.
"You never answer your phone," my son complains from California, where he has left 8 voicemails for me in 15 minutes. "I was at work," I say. Approximately 16 minutes have elapsed since his first call.
"Where is your phone?" he says. "You need to put it in your pocket and turn the volume all the way up."
"I'm not wearing cargo pants," I say. "What is your emergency?"
It rings three more times before I pull into the driveway.
"You never answer your phone," she says as I walk in the door.
"I'm here," I say. "What do you need?"
The number of calls, e-mails and texts I manage to answer is not worth mentioning. I am not even going to mention it. It would be like mentioning that I just walked in the door from work with an armful of groceries when the relevant fact is that people were hungry 10 minutes ago.
I'm not really complaining. When your firstborn leaves for college, every call home is like a valentine. Roses are red, violets are blue, I need money. Also I dropped a weight on my iPhone.
My daughter's text updates are a little slice of sssoMETHINGGG. I don't really know what she's saying a lot of the time, but I'm pretty sure I need to buy poster board. Or possibly Nutella? KthnxbyeLOL.
I set a special ring tone on my phone so I would know when one of them was trying to reach me. It sounds like chirping baby birds. It was so sweet when I heard it the first time. I may have smiled.
But sometimes it sounds as if I am hatching chicks in my purse. What the fuck can they need now?
Whatever it is, I am on it, whether it is a wee hours discussion of the Fibonacci numbers or an emergency iPhone replacement plan.
Did you know the fibonacci numbers show up everywhere? Like they're in pinecones. Pineapples too. Anything that starts with pine. The girl is babysitting and wants me to keep her company by text.
I am asleep, I reply. Will ponder tomorrow.
Ponder now, she says. So I do.
from the telephone archives: Mommy's Customer Service Center and Wine Bar