It was family meeting night at the Marshall household. Matthew brought his sarcasm, Jenna came with her usual cloud of gloom, and Peter just wanted to run in circles. Even Martha was less than thrilled with Frank’s new idea. But Frank wasn’t going to let them spoil his enthusiasm.
Frank cleared his throat, “Alright, kids, as you know, Christmas is just around the corner and…”
“Christmas!” Peter jumped on the couch and raised his fist. “Finally, I want a bicycle, train, hey, how about a puppy. Come on, please? Or even a snake…”
“Peter, calm down, this meeting is not about gifts. But for the record we are not getting a puppy,” said Frank.
“Or a snake,” Martha shivered.
Frank nodded, “Now back to the issue at hand, as I said, Christmas is almost here, and, Jenna, could you please open your eyes?”
Matthew laughed, “You should probably turn down the lights. Vampires only come out at night.”
“Matthew, please be nice,” pleaded Martha. “Jenna, can you cooperate for a few minutes?”
Jenna glared at her brother. “Fine, whatever. Can we please get this over with?”
Frank sighed, “I’m trying. Okay, here we go. As you know we always use a family picture as our Christmas card. We’re going to do something different this year.”
“How come, Dad?” asked Matthew. “Afraid we won’t be able to find enough black for the whole family to match Jenna?”
Jenna stood. “That’s it, I’m leaving.”
“No one’s going anywhere,” ordered Frank. “Sit down, Jenna. Matthew, not one more word out of you.”
Peter yelped, “Yippee! No picture, no bath, no haircut…”
“Not quite, Peter,” Martha said, adding under her breath, “but at least we won’t have to keep you still for a picture.”
“We send out and receive all these perfect photos every year. It’s nice to see how families have changed but where’s the personalization? We don’t even sign our names because they’re printed on the cards. I’d like to share a little more about our family this year,” explained Frank.
“Share? Our family?” laughed Matthew. “Dad, you’re killing me.”
“Matthew….,” Frank warned.
“So what, Dad?” Jenna rolled her eyes. “Just have Mom type up a letter. That’s it, meeting adjourned.”
Frank shook his head. “No, that’s still not personal enough. We’re going to send cards to our closest family and friends and include a note from each family member.”
“Aww, come on Dad! That’ll take forever,” Jenna protested. “Who has time?”
“Peter can’t even spell,” laughed Matthew.
“Can too!” Peter cried, “c-a-t, d-o-g, f-r-…”
“Peter will do what he can and I can assure you it will be the highlight of someone’s day. And, Jenna, maybe you can come out of your room and join the rest of the family. You’d be surprised how much time you have and you might even smile once or twice. We’ll put down our electronic devices and grab some old fashioned pens and paper, maybe some crayons,” Frank smiled at Peter, “and write some notes.”
“Kids, it really doesn’t have to be anything in-depth,” Martha explained, “just a personal message to let someone know what they mean to you.”
“Riiiight, and what about old-man Jackson from down the road, Mom?” asked Matthew. “You want me to let him know I think he’s the meanest man this side of the Mississippi?”
“Matthew! Remember all those times growing up when you went sledding on his property? What great childhood memories!”
“I guess so, Mom,” admitted Matthew, “but he never acted like he really wanted us there.”
“He’s just lonely. It would mean the world to him to know that you had so much fun.”
Frank clapped once. “So we’re all clear about the Marshall family Christmas letter. I’m posting a list of all the recipients on the refrigerator. Review it in the next few days and we’ll meet Friday night at the dining room table to get started.”
Jenna suddenly came to life. “Friday night! Seriously?”
“Dad, I’m with you, really, but can’t we do this project on our own time?” Matthew glanced at Jenna, “Doom and gloom tends to put a damper on my creativity.”
“Friday night, dining room, no arguments. Meeting’s over, everyone is free to go.”
Matthew left the room with one last eye roll, Jenna trudged up the stairs to her room, and Peter resumed jumping on the couch.
Martha just shook her head, “Are you sure, Frank? At least we could edit a photograph.”
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