[Originally published December 22, 2009.]

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1987

Jen,

I think there’s some good stuff here. It’s too bad that it’s buried under a pile of holiday clichés and trite generalizations. You’ve been a “good girl?” What is the reader supposed to gather from that? Is that the author’s subjective opinion about her behavior over the past twelve months, or rather a more objective assessment based on society’s standards of what qualifies as a “good girl?” A little clarification would go a long way and most likely garner better results for what the author is trying to get, which, at the most superficial of levels, is apparently a Teddy Ruxpin doll.

With love,
Mom

PS. All your “J’s” are backwards.

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1989

Jen,

I’ve always made it a point to start off any notes I give with some positive comment first. Unfortunately, your work here has made it virtually impossible for me to do that this time.

This letter is meandering, lacking in structure, and just an overall mess of what should be a very personal, intimate correspondence with Santa Claus. One gets the sense that the author was high on pixie sticks while writing it, and upon review of the mess that was discovered underneath your bedroom this morning, I gather that this was exactly the case.

You begin the letter with what is perhaps a pure intention of inquiring about the reader and turning the focus onto him. I am all for work that breaks the audience’s suspension of disbelief and forces them to become a participant in the art itself. However, asking questions such as, “if it’s really cold up there?” and “where do all the reindeer sleep?” are completely offensive and demeaning to the reader’s intelligence and show an utter lack of real concern for who your audience is. Sure, if this was the first Christmas in the history of the world, then those are perfectly valid, wonderful questions to present, ones that surely need to be ask. But, as timeless readings of The Night Before Christmas, have surely informed you, those questions are old, outdated, and a literal waste of ink and paper, not to mention cookies.

And while we’re on the topic of baked goods, I was also disappointed with your choice of Lorne Doones in lieu of the traditional homemade chocolate chip. Though, in retrospect, I suppose the leaving of a bland, tasteless, out-dated cookie was the perfect fit for this letter.

Merry Christmas, honey!

With regards,
Mom

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1990

Jen,
I am so glad you decided to resume writing again this year. Very much so welcomed, especially after last year’s lock-yourself-in-the-closest-with-all-the-egg-nog fiasco.

While this letter is far from perfect, it is certainly an improvement from past work. I get a real sense that you are coming into your own, and learning the difference between nouns and verbs. That’s a big step forward for you. I also sense an inclination to a more subversive tone and overall direction. Your hesitance even to believe in the validity of your audience is right on-point. Let’s take this premise and expand it further in your coming work, yes?

Oh, one last thing: The forgetting of the milk: intentional or not? If intentional, I think it’s a great utilization of withholding something from your audience to achieve a desired effect. If unintentional, it’s probably because I asked you to get milk on your way home from Laura’s the other day and as per usual, you used the money to buy Fanta.

Also, why even make mention of your cousin Zach? He’s Jewish.

Love,
Mom

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1993

Jen,

This one seemed a little indulgent to me. You devote an exorbitant amount of time to discussing your activities visiting your grandmother at the elderly home this year. It just came off as transparent and needy to the reader, an obnoxious attempt to TELL him what you deserve, rather than allowing him to decide for himself. Also, bringing the death of Lucky into it? Please. You might as well just have written “Toys! Give me toys!” and saved yourself the wrist work. I’m surprised the paper wasn’t artfully decorated with tears to drive your overly sentimental point home.

Love the Rudolph stickers, though. Great use of empty space there.

Love,
Mom

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1996

Jen,

I’m not one to make accusations, but this letter read eerily like your sister’s 1988 piece to the tooth fairy. I hope you would have the character not to have simply switched around the names and details to plagiarize your sister’s hard work and dedication for your own gain. Don’t bother answering this question; I’d rather not know. For the record, I just have a hard time truly believing this is your work.

That being said, it was brilliant. A tour-de-force of Christmas wishes.

Love,
Mom

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2000

Jen,

Your leaving of rancid milk and dog biscuits were noted, and highly unappreciated. A writer who can’t take cannot accept criticism is no writer at all.

Best,
Mother

P.S. Mark Twin wrote that. Yup, both of those sentences.