Dear Friends and Family,
I’m a little late with the annual Holiday letter, but I think we can all agree that this has been a very interesting year, and that nothing has gone as planned. When the virus that-shall-not-be named grounded us for life, we did what any other family would do. We laid around in our PJs and ate bread. As it turns out, Jim is a pretty good baker. I think he missed his calling, although my waistline likes him better as an accountant.
Jim is still with Skillerod, Actins and Croy, and I’m your neighborhood broker; here if you have any real estate needs during this unprecedented time! Both of us have been working from home since March, and it’s going well.
Jim has pitched a tent in the backyard, which he uses as an office. It’s been so warm lately, it works out nicely and he’s very happy with what I affectionately call his “man cave.” He’s got a generator and a TV, and he’s even set up a little bar out there. Most evenings, the sounds of a game can be heard, and the smell of his cigar wafts through the kitchen window as I battle a sink full of suds. It seems like the dishwasher is always running these days!
I've found a cozy little corner in our bedroom to call my own. It’s wedged in neatly next to the exercise bike I impulse-bought when my leggings got too tight. The handlebars are curved just so, and I’ve found that they hold my filing system perfectly. I moved the table in from the entryway to use as my desk, and I found one of those funky vintage lawn chairs with the scratchy webbing in the garage. I tossed a nubby blanket over the seat and it works great! Turns out you don’t need much to make a small space beautiful. Check out my Instagram to see how it all came together! @Patti@home
Chloe, Caleb and Cassidy are busy with at-home learning, and Harvey and Harriet have welcomed a new addition to the menagerie named Harold. (More about him later.) Our little house on Posey Place is bursting at the seams. We are loving all this “together time,” although the kids hate it when I use that term. They’ve taken to echoing me every time I say it, in a falsetto voice, with jazz hands. Chloe even made up a song, complete with the voice and the hands, took a video of it and posted it on Tik Tok. It got a million views. I’m not sure if I should be offended or flattered.
Now that she’s a sophomore at State, Chloe is very busy with her classes. She's moved home and has a nice set up in her room. She also has a part time job at Scoops n’ Sundays, so she’s always coming and going. Actually, I haven’t seen her since July, when she started “talking to” a boy named Rex who was in her women’s studies class last year. She says he is very “woke.” They reconnected at a protest and have been making cardboard signs out in the garage together ever since. She’s quite the artist!
Caleb is a Junior, working hard to get those grades. He wears his big, bulky headphones for class and I hear him talking excitedly with his classmates all day. Apparently, he has also become the number one user of a game called “DutyBound.” He says that he is planning to play video games as a career. I didn’t even know that was a thing! He's always been quite the computer genius.
Our little Cass is in eighth grade (can you believe it!) and she's still obsessed with animals. Most days, Harvey sleeps at her feet and Harriet is purring away on her bed while she does her classes. She has Instagram accounts for both of them, and even has interest from a sponsor! She’s always trying to add more pets to the household; a fish, a hamster, an iguana, and most of all, a bird. I have been reluctant to acquiesce, because despite her fervent promises, I’m still on poop duty. When she’s not “at” school, Cass is busy making Powerpoint presentations demonstrating why we need to adopt every living creature on this planet. She’s a marketing whiz, that girl!
This year, the holiday season has been very different than “the usual,” but at our house, it’s been quite eventful. The whole thing started on the second Sunday of advent. Cass was lounging on the couch with her phone and Jim was obsessively vacuuming Christmas tree needles with the Dustbuster.
“Can I get a bird?” Cass asked, scrolling.
“No.” said Jim.
“See, this parrot on Instagram dances to Michael Jackson!” she cried. “They even made him a little sparkly glove!”
“No.” The Dustbuster hummed along.
Cass continued to needle Jim while I ran around the kitchen baking batch after batch of my signature Holiday cookies. By the way, this year’s theme was a hoot, wasn’t it? Toilet paper rolls, masks and hand sanitizer, all decked with boughs of holly. Who would have ever imagined? I hope you all got my contactless doorstep deliveries! Anyways, Cass marched in with her phone, swooped the cookie cutters aside and started working furiously at the kitchen table. Twenty minutes later, she had created a presentation entitled “Thirteen Reasons Why...I Need A Bird.”
Well, it worked!
With a “Fine! You want a bird, you take care of it! Merry Christmas!” Jim huffed out the door and down to Anthony’s Pet Palace. Within the hour, we had a new member of the family. His name is Harold and he’s green-cheeked Amazon parrot who talks. Actually, he’s about as sassy as a thirteen year old girl, which may have factored into Jim’s decision.
“She can argue with him,” Jim said, rolling the cage in from the garage.
Well, it wasn’t long before we discovered Harold’s magic powers. He brought everyone out of their rooms! We all gathered ‘round the fireplace, where his big iron cage was set up. He really is quite beautiful, with feathers the color of a ripe lime and a beautiful red spot above his beak.
“Pinche pendejo” he said followed by a cheery squawk!
Chloe and Caleb both burst out laughing, clutching their stomachs and flopping on the couch.
“He called you an asshole, mom!” Caleb gasped, his headphones bobbing around his neck.
“Bad Bird,” said Harold, lowering his head and picking up one foot.
“Awwww!” said Cass, “He feels bad!”
Now, green-cheeked Amazon parrots don’t come with an instruction manual, so Cass has been doing a lot of research. She found out how to make a crown for Harold and a little toy for his cage. His care, as it turned out, was up to me! After a few days, I got the hang of it. He likes peanuts and sunflower seeds, and besides me, he’s the only one who eats broccoli around here. I’ve set him up in the Kitchen and he keeps me company while I cook. I wrap a towel around his cage to every night to keep him warm – did you know birds need to be kept warm? I’m learning something new every day! He greets me every morning with a cheery, “Roll me a joint, mama!”
When the kids were small, I made breakfast for them every morning, but somewhere along the way, they decided that sleep was more important than food. Well, there’s no sleeping with Harold in the house! Every morning they file in, yawning and shuffling. I’ve started making my signature eggs, bacon and fruit combo again, and the kids love to toss pieces of kiwi or strawberry to Harold. He grabs them with his foot and munches away while watching us from atop his cage. We can’t get too close or he’ll bite! He’s quite the rascal.
On Christmas morning, I made a special breakfast and we took it out onto the patio to eat al fresco. Cass wanted Harold to enjoy the sunshine, so she put the little crown she'd made on his head and wheeled him outside to join us. There was no going “over the meadow and through the woods” this year, so the plan was to just relax at home with some Christmas music until it was time to cook the turkey and open presents. Well, Harold had other ideas. He leapt off his cage and he flew! I didn’t know parrots could be so fast!
To our surprise, he dashed off through the open door and soared around the living room, knocking the star off the Christmas tree and baby Jesus right out of his manger! It was quite a sight! We all ran after him yelling. Harvey was running in circles around the room barking, which woke Harriet up from her Christmas nap. She jumped off the couch, arched her back, and hissed. Jim’s slippers skidded on the wooden floor and he nearly fell. When I tried to steady him, my robe tie got caught in the door and I almost went head first into the presents I'd spent all night wrapping!
Chloe’s boyfriend, Rex, appeared out of nowhere wearing a Santa hat and carrying a stack of gifts. “What’s up family?” He shouted over the din.
Harold swooped down within inches Cass, who jumped up on the couch to catch him, but the big green bird eluded her grasp and settled on top of the tree, the crown sparkling on his head. We all held our breath.
“Bad Bird,” he said, nodding his head and lifting up one foot. This got the tree swaying. We all jumped at it to keep it from falling. Jim reached one arm in through the branches and steadied it without breaking one single ornament! We all sighed with relief and took a big step back. Harold regarded us with one eye from the highest bough. In the silence, a big, glass replica of the White House that I picked up years ago in Washington D.C. slid off it’s branch. We watched as it fell in slow motion and shattered into a glittering halo around the bottom of the tree.
“Damn.” Rex whistled. “Twenty twenty."
Once we got the mess cleaned up, Christmas was pretty great. We gave up on the turkey and ordered take-out. We watched Christmas Vacation, and sat around laughing and talking until after midnight. It wasn’t the perfect holiday. It was much, much better.
As for me, I gave myself a late Christmas gift; a weekend at LaPlaya Spa and Resort, all by myself. I’ll be going as soon as things open up again. In the meantime, I’m teaching Harold a new phrase: “Hasta La Vista, Baby!”
Happy Holidays to you and yours!
Jim, Patti, Chloe, Caleb, Cass, Harvey, Harriet
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It sounds a lot like my family at Christmas... crazy, fun, and tiring. I love how you wrote it like a Christmas letter. I also really like how it is historical fiction (well except it is not history, it's still happening!)
Thank you, Naomi! Christmas is so funny - we're all trying to have our own versions of the perfect holiday, but the real magic happens when you just give up and enjoy it, right?
This was so much fun to read! I wish all Christmas letters were like this!
Thank you, Maryanne! I completely agree!
Hilarious! I love the interesting format. Writing in the form of a Christmas letter made the story unique, I think. Great story!
Thank you, Victoria! It was fun to imagine this crazy family and their newest member.
I did not know we had the same family... Excellent work here!
Ha! Families are funny, especially around the holidays! Thank you so much!!
Oh this was great! Completely opposite of my depressing, moody story involving a Christmas bird xD. I loved how this story is formatted, using a letter as a vessel/structure was a nice idea. The cheery and charming tone really fall in line with the prompt. The personality of the narrator really shines through, and I love how this story in some ways is actually really relatable! Stunning job!
Thank you so much! I had a lot of fun writing it. Happy Holidays to you!!
Hi, Julie! I love the approach of the family letter - in the beginning I was going to ask, "Is this fiction?" because a lot (like, a LOT) of what you wrote in those first paragraphs could have been many of the families that I know this year. Harold's vocabulary, especially his morning greetings for our narrator, are hilarious. I loved every scene he was in, and I was glad to see Rex come back at the end after getting his mention earlier in the story. We need more fun to banish the bad spirits of this year. And, living in below-freezing...
Hi Ray! Thank you! Yes, I think we are all going through the same collective misery (and expanded waistlines) with this pandemic - I'm glad this felt real! I drew from a few real life situations - the Christmas letters, especially, are pouring in, and I love how people are trying to make the best of things. You're right, we need lots more fun this year!! I live in Southern California and it has been unusually warm and dry lately - it was 80 degrees yesterday! It's usually nice and sunny around this time of year, but right now it feels ...
LOL! It was 12 degrees the other day here in Pennsylvania. I wouldn't mind a brief extension of summer at the moment... ;-) The idea of a flock of wild parrots is fascinating. I've never even heard of such a thing. Of course, in retrospect, such things must exist, but I never would have guessed that they could be found anywhere in the continental States. I can't imagine what it would be like to go outside and find a wild animal asking you to roll it a joint! That's wonderful!
LOL!! Legend has it the parrots escaped from a long ago fire at a pet shop. I don't know if that is exactly true or correct, but it makes for a good story. They fly around in a big flock, and they usually settle in a tree and start squawking. It's quite a sight. They don't talk, though - that part came from a local pet shop (where my daughter worked for awhile) and my imagination. We also have peacocks! They're from a local arboretum and they're beautiful. We sometimes see them roosting on the rooftops when we're out for a walk. For al...
I love this! What a great take on the prompt - to use a Christmas newsletter. You nailed that special cheery tone that screams "Christmas newsletter. " And the character you created in Harold - precious. This was such a fun, rollicking holiday story....brightened up my day for sure!
Thank you Kristin! I really had fun writing this one. I'm glad it brightened your day! I think the Christmases that don't go as planned are always the best. : )