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Happy Holidays from the O'Briens! 


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Dear Friends and Family,

Once again it's that time of year when I curl up with a glass of eggnog in front of the fire and share what our family has been up to. I know plenty of folks are keeping up with each other on Facebook and Instagram, but it just isn't Christmas unless I do the newsletter. Even though over the years I've watched my own haul of holiday cards dwindle from a mailbox full of embossed reindeer and flocked snowscapes to a blackjack hand of dollar store postcards and, of course, the big family photo from my sister Shannon. Other than that, it's just mass emails with photos that pop up on the screen so large I'm looking at everyone's pores and a text from my daughter Ellen with emojis that don't show up on my phone. But I'm sure they were chosen with love, Ellen! 

My goodness, I always forget how sweet this stuff is — could use another little splash of cheer to thin it out. There we go. To be honest, I'm not even sure whether the 58 people I send my little newsletter to in hand-addressed envelopes with little snowman stamps even read them. Maybe they just open them, count the three pages of my annual attempt to maintain connections with the folks we've shared our lives with and slip it right into what's probably the wrong recycling bin! Who knows? Yeah, that's still a little sweet. There we go.

Oh, it's not always easy putting a positive spin on the year, either, but I do it! Even in this roiling hellscape of a decade, I scrape together a highlight reel of the O'Brien family's greatest hits and pay $.50 apiece to send copies seemingly into the void. Which is freeing in a way! I could type out our darkest secrets in this thing and none of you would notice! So let's brace ourselves with another short glass of nog and get to it, shall we? 

Bill and I celebrated our silver anniversary in March and after 30 years together, we still feel like newlyweds — even more so now that the kids are both out of the house. Yup, like newlyweds in a period drama where they marry off complete strangers. Except instead of some dark, moody Scottsman striding across the moors, I've got the only man of his generation who still doesn't know how to clear a computer search history. Cheers to you, honeybun!

I'll tell you what, as festive as eggnog is, it sure doesn't quench your thirst. It might actually be making me more thirsty. 

Anywho, this July we also celebrated the birth of our first grandchild, Gray. That's right, it's not only a popular color for sedans and office buildings, but a thing people name boys now! Our daughter Ellen and her husband Connor are doing a fantastic job as new parents, shielding his eyes from any screens like they're protecting him from a nuclear blast and not letting him within 10 feet of any plastic toys. Only unpainted wooden toys for little Gray! Which is something they might have mentioned before we bought a freaking oil drum of colorful blocks but I'm sure they were just busy and exhausted since they won't let him cry for two minutes together. 

Whoops! A little nog on the keyboard there. It's fine, it's fine. Thanksgiving, though! Once again we went to my sister Shannon's to celebrate with her enormous family and the "fresh" (read: raw) homemade cranberry relish she's so proud of. Her knee surgery went well, by the way, and she's already back to Zumba and referring to herself as a "dancer." While the ban on talking politics was only partially successful, we all discovered that his abhorrent positions gave us all an excuse to finally lay into Uncle Carl, who has always been the worst.

And as usual, Shannon organized the big family photo while we were all together. Before I get into that, another glass of eggnog is in order. 

So, the photo. Just 20 adults and a dozen children in matching pajamas. Even Grandpa Jack, who turned 96 the day before Thanksgiving this year — a milestone we honored by hauling him to Shannon's, feeding him cranberry sauce he could barely chew and dressing him in pajamas that said "What the Elf?" so he could have his photos taken with people he doesn't recognize. Not that the man isn't still sharp as a tack — Shannon just insists on dragging everyone's ex and their new spouses and kids into this fleece trainwreck. That man next to her daughter Eileen? I have never met him before in my life. 

All this honesty is so refreshing. And since we're being honest, this is not so much eggnog as a mug of flavored coffee creamer with three fingers of vodka in it. The crackling fire may in fact be an ashtray of stubbed out Lucky Strikes. God, that's a relief.  

And so I end this letter with a final toast from our family to yours. Happy Holidays and a bright 2020 to you all!

(Except you, Carl. I'll see you in hell.) 


Betty O'Brien

Jennifer Fumiko Cahill is the arts and features editor at the Journal and prefers she/her. Reach her at 442-1400, extension 320, or jennifer@northcoastjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter @JFumikoCahill.

Got a humorous take or tale to share? Then the North Coast Journal wants to hear from you. Contact us at editor@northcoastjournal.com to pitch your column ideas.


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