xmas letter 2011: it’s the most wonderful time of the year

Friends and family, coast to coast: The McMullans wish you Feliz Navidad!

The new millennium is in its ‘tweens, and 2011 is coming to a close. Just like our own childhoods, it was an awkward year, one of character-building experiences for the US of A; Someone pulled out a can of Mace at a California Walmart during a Black Friday shopping frenzy. But, against all odds, Hollywood managed to churn out a halfway decent “Planet of the Apes” reboot. See? That’s American resolve. There’s hope for all of us yet.

But how are we, how are the McMullans, you ask? Well. Read on:

At the mother ship in northwest Indiana, Val and Grandma have been doing well. Val served on the committee that planned festivities for the family church’s 100th anniversary, which was celebrated in October. Grandma’s parents were founding members of the Protection of the Virgin Mary Orthodox Church, and many of their progeny descended upon a banquet hall to represent the family at the centennial event. Nobody made a mess of the table cloth, and Val hijacked a dozen souvenir wine glasses. Thus, the celebratory weekend was a success.

And the two remain busy, at home and on the road. They’ve been keeping up with the latest technological leaps in telecommunications (the house phone now has voicemail), and they managed a trip by rail to the east coast this summer. While in Boston to visit Mar, Val briefly drove a duck boat during a sightseeing tour on the Charles River. This is no small feat, Val reminds us: “The duck boat is an amphibious, World War II-era vessel. It goes on both land and water.” Can your car do that? Nope. It can’t, no matter how much bathtub caulk you’ve lined on your Toyota’s doorframes.

Mary now has a full year under her belt as Numero Uno book slinger at Milton High School, and has been reporting on the many horrifying vagaries of teenage society she glimpses from her perch behind the checkout desk. “What is high school, if not a terrifying carnival show, a witches brew of pep rallies and petty cruelty?” she asks. To that we have no answer, Mar.

While in Washington, Val and Grandma glimpsed upon the dank hole of an apartment that middle child Matt now calls home; close enough to downtown that he can walk to the office where he works as a public relations shill for an education nonprofit. As housewarming gifts the pair brought with them a used toaster and a Ziploc bag full of Vegeta, because, as Grandma explained, “it goes on everything.” After experimentation with a variety of foodstuffs, Matt agrees.

But Val and Grandma spent most of their time in DC across town, visiting with Mike, Va and granddaughter Anna, now five years young and halfway through her kindergarten campaign at a Capitol Hill elementary school. Anna the Energizer Bunny runs, jumps, swings from the monkey bars with the best of them, and has picked up a little Spanish in the classroom too.

And she is terribly excited, because the size of her family is about to increase dramatically: Va and Mike are expecting their second child, who well could be here by the time this letter reaches you. The due date is January 2, the crib has been assembled and the nursery walls have been left a neutral yellow, because they’ve decided to let the baby’s gender be a surprise. Anna is about to be pressed into service as both a big sister and emergency nursemaid, and parents Virginia and Mike are preparing for 4 a.m. bottle feedings. Ah! Familiar bliss.

So much has been happening! But that is our 2011 in a nutshell: Duck boats, high school libraries, Vegeta and a baby on the way. Who knows what 2012 will bring? An IU basketball championship? A Gingrich presidency? Flying pigs?

Who can say? All that can be said with conviction and sincerity is that we’ll weather it together. By the time our next holiday card reaches you, our family will be one person stronger and one year older, if not wiser. We hope 2012 is as good to you as 2011 was to all of us. Happy holidays to you and your family, and make sure to keep in touch. Remember: Val now has voicemail.

– Us