Here’s Our Holiday Letter!
● By Sandy Kauten
Normally we don’t do a holiday letter, but this year the Epsteins have so much to boast about that they can’t help it. You’ll notice that this letter is signed by me, Felix the former family cat. They gave me away several years ago on the whim of some doctor who said I make the kids sneeze and choke. But now they’ve borrowed me back because false modesty demands that someone else mention all the great things they achieved this year.
Marie, the college girl, phoned home during her third week of “History of the Middle East” course to report, “Dad, I totally understand what’s going on over there!” That hard knot has defied understanding for thousands of years. Am I nuts or is our Marie a shoo-in for a Nobel Prize?
Sally, the high schooler, spent five days away at marching-band camp and did NOT get sent home in disgrace. She and her friends stole every pair of undershorts from the boys’ cabin and dumped a wastebasketful of water on the band director. Furthermore, a search of Sally’s bedding turned up obvious prank ammunition – a squeeze bottle of chocolate syrup that had been stolen from the dining hall on make-your-own sundae night. There was an inquiry into these crimes, but Sally beat the rap. How quickly they grow up! One minute a child is blurting out to Mom what Dad’s getting her for Christmas and the next she’s invoking the Fifth Amendment, cool as a cucumber.
Wendy at 13 has become a skilled negotiator. She can get permission to have a girlfriend over after school to do homework and then fine-tune the plan to where Dad has agreed to chauffeur a carload of boys and girls to the mall, turn himself invisible for two hours and then drive them home.
She would do well as a lawyer or agent, but first she’d have to get her mind off boys. At age 4 she berated me for torturing a mouse. Now she’s the one who toys with helpless vermin, ones with names like Justin, Matt and Brandon. I recognize the wide-eyed look of the confused prey. These pint-sized lover-boys don’t have my detached perspective because no one thought to have them “fixed.” For peace of mind, there’s nothing like it. Napping in the sunshine, catching mice and drinking out of toilets – these are my humble pleasures and I think these tormented boys would find them more dependable than whatever joy their fickle females are dispensing.For Dad, this year has just been one thing after another. In the spring, he got a 1.2 percent raise and the celebratory pizza party raged until nearly 8 p.m. Yes, there was extra cheese. Soon afterward, his pockets still overflowing with treasure, Dad bought a new dryer – one whose interior belts do not scream like the souls of the damned.
Then in May, he noticed a mysterious black speck under his thumbnail down near the cuticle. In June he realized with eager anticipation that the speck was moving as the nail grew and that eventually he would get a look at it and find out what the heck it was. The big day, which came in September, was kind of a letdown. The speck emerged, but it was too small to identify. Even so, it had enlivened an otherwise dull summer for the old man.
Mom is likewise having quite a year. Its high point came when her alma mater offered Sally a scholarship worth $3,000 a year just for being the daughter of an alumna. Up until then, being her mother’s daughter had only meant she wouldn’t get any taller than 5-foot-1. Two tiny hearts were gladdened.
Mom scored again on Back-to-School Night when she arrived in the auditorium at the very moment the principal concluded his traditional half-hour speech of over-the-top self-congratulation. “Did I miss it?” she asked brightly.
“Yep,” said Dad, “But here’s the gist: This school is about perfect and if it keeps on getting even better, new words will have to be added to the English language so he can describe the unbelievably superb superbness of the education this joint provides.” But that wasn’t all. Wendy’s language-arts teacher then vowed he would make the kids read a book.
Now another Christmas is upon us and the family (except for me) will all be together one more time. There will be a gifts and visitors. Affectionate chitchat will abound while another turkey is stuffed, cooked, carved and tossed down the hatch. Excited speculation about the new year will be likely. Can the Epsteins fend off scandal for another 365 days? Can Mom and Dad keep on dragging home the paychecks that keep the children in silks and caviar? Will angels blow trumpets while Wendy’s increasingly sublime school ascends into Heaven? Will the new dryer fulfill its manufacturer’s promises?
Who can say? Certainly not me. I don’t even understand why I shouldn’t get underfoot when someone is carrying a huge platter of hot food. I’m not good at predicting the future.